As the summer came to an end and the fall approached, I decided it was time for our first foyer into organized team sports. See, the area we live in is crazy for soccer. Soccer fields surround us and soccer games and soccer practices can be seen in any park, schoolyard our just any wide open space on any night.
Because soccer is so popular in our community, I decided it would be a good fall activity for us and the little man - who will undoubtedly grow up with other little friends who also partake in the sport.
Plus, organized team sports help teach valuable lessons - lessons like teamwork and how it's not about winning ... right?
I found a short soccer program meant to introduce kids the little man's age to the sport of soccer. It wasn't competitive and because it was only a month long, we wouldn't be stuck going to practices and games all season long just in case the little man hated soccer. To top things off, a friend of mine, who also has a little boy just days older than the little man, also signed her son up for the same program - and the same team.
So, we dived head first into soccer. With a new soccer ball, shin guards and cleats, the little man proudly walked onto the soccer field for the first time. He learned the fundamentals of soccer (well, at least, at the level a 4-year-old can comprehend) and after a few practices, we were ready for our first "game."
As the little man took to the field in his very first soccer game, he proudly wore his bright blue jersey. The whistle blew and off took the gaggle of 4-year-olds, chasing the ball down the field.
Suddenly the little man stopped and began wringing his hands. He scanned the sidelines for me and by the look on his face, I knew he was upset.
I stood up and waved my hand so he could see me, I motioned him over the sideline so I could see what was so wrong.
"Mommy, they aren't being nice," he said. "They aren't sharing the ball. They aren't letting me have a turn."
With that, I faced a conundrum I had not foreseen.
I had thought that team sports would teach him good lessons - but as the soccer game continued on without him, I took a deep breath and said something I never thought I would say.
"That's because you need to steal the ball from them," I said. "If you want the ball, you have to take it."
The little man stood silent, looking at me.
"That's the game," I said. "It's OK to steal the ball away during a soccer game."
And with that, I feared I had just erased any sense of sharing from the little man's conscience. I had anticipated talks about teamwork and how you should always just do your best, regardless of winning or losing, but I had not anticipated the lesson of don't share - just take.
Luckily, the little man quickly dried up his eyes and before we knew it, the little man was back on the field, also chasing the ball with the other 4-year-olds. He laughed and smiled with them and when he stole the ball away from an opposing team member and dribbled it down the field, he couldn't have been more proud. At the end of the season he received a gold medal for participation and we celebrated with ice cream.
And mommy had a renewed appreciation for individual sports.