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Measured Meddling

One of the trickier things about having Simon play soccer with older kids these past six months is that I have been less sure of my own role. Among his cohort, I have a good grasp of what’s allowed—public hugs and kisses, shoe tying, wrapper assistance—and what’s not—picking him up (not that I could), hugs that last too long, and other stuff I can’t think of right now.

Among the 8s and 9s, I’m still feeling my way. It might sound silly that I’ve been concerned about this, but I don’t want to socially isolate Simon by publicly babying him. I’ve picked up some things. Like, I figured out that I need to get Simon his own sports bag so he can haul his uniform changes, warm-up jacket, water, etc. to games on his own. And I know that it would be totally OK to drop him off at practice and then come back an hour and a half later to pick him up.

We’ve also figured out that it’s best to encourage Simon to leave us to play with his peers as soon as possible. Where it gets trickier is with untied shoes and pennies. Can we tie an untied shoe? Can we help put on the penny during a scrimmage and criss-cross the straps so they don’t fall off his shoulders and distract him?

The penny thing is no minor matter. Once one goes on Simon, he might as well be shackled. He spends all his time holding it in front of his chest, which means that he loses his balance, speed, and focus on the game. Watching Simon scrimmage—or, heaven forbid, actually play a game—in a penny is one of the most miserable parenting experiences I have yet endured short of colic and projectile vomiting. It’s a distant third, granted, but still no picnic.

Thankfully, resolution to my parenting quandaries has come from different sides. We’ve been able to tip off the coach that Simon needs help in some situations and mirror other meddling parents in others. Better still, Simon has resolved some situations all on his own. His growing acquaintance with the big kids has made it easier for him to dive right in at practice, as has his extremely chatty and cordial relationship with the coaches.*

As for the penny, that resolved itself in the best and least expected way possible. He figured out how to put the thing on and criss-cross the straps himself. This was no evolution: One day he struggled like a tuna in a net, putting his head through an armhole and getting the whole thing upside-down and backwards. The next he did it all himself.

Then again, Simon isn’t as U-9 as he used to be. He’s now 7 1/2 and is figuring out how to do more and more on his own. I should have realized from the start that I wouldn’t be the only one watching and mirroring the big boys. The funny thing is, I should have known that it would go this way. As the youngest of three, I was in quite a rush to grow up and catch up to the older boys myself as a child.

*Simon watches more soccer than most kids, so he and the coaches like to jaw about games and players. That’s always been the case. He also garners attention by being very attentive in practice. Of late, something else has come up. One of Simon’s new assistant coaches is a man named Duke. Duke is from Malawi, and I have heard through the grapevine that some of the boys struggle to understand him because of his accent. Not Simon! Here’s a boy that went through his key language acquisition period conversing with Southern Sudanese two to three times a week. I’m not sure if Simon realizes Duke has an accent. It’s a win-win, because not only does Simon love chatting with Duke, but Duke seeks him out as well and has given Simon some impressive one-to-one instruction.

One Response to “Measured Meddling”

  1. goldsteinrita says:

    You just can’t anticipate all the ways Simon’s diverse upbringing will be beneficial!

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