Playing For Keeps (Or In This Case, Snacks)

A few weeks before school started this past summer, I set up camp with my computer and check book so I could submit registration forms for the various and sundry Fall activities in which my older children would participate.  The kids were all milling about as I worked, reminding me of what shoes they didn't have and which sports uniforms I still needed to secure.  The boys had militantly decided they wanted to try soccer again this year and Meaghan and Mary had been begging for months to try a dance class at a local studio.

As I wrote checks and entered dates into our calendar, I realized Camille might be disappointed to watch her siblings go off on all sorts of sports adventures without being included in anyone of them.

My heart softened for a moment as I thought about how hard it must be to be the fifth child, to always have to watch the great accomplishments and activities of older siblings, so I asked her,

"Camille, would you like to particpate in soccer or dance this year?"

Admittedly, I was hoping she really wouldn't have an opinion; that she would say "No, I'm good, Mom," but that was wishful thinking on my part.

Everyone turned to look at her and she noticed the attention.  Camille is at her best when all eyes are on her, so she took her time with a reply.

She used her index finger to tap her mouth and she looked to the ceiling, like she was trying to figure out an answer to an existential quandary. Finally, she spoke.

"Question," she said, "will there be food at soccer practice?"

"Yes, there will probably be food after the games.  Parents might bring snacks and stuff like that," I told her.

A grin spread across her face and she nodded her head up and down.

"Soccer, definitely soccer."

I would love to tell you that love for the game or a desire to hone her skills motivated Camille to join a U5 soccer team this fall, but that would be a lie....

It was the promise of after game snacks of sugar-laden juice boxes and Twinkies that sealed her decision.

I was reminded exactly how ridiculous it is to have five-year olds play soccer after watching two minutes of the first game of the season.

The kids, more content to catch butterflies and sprint off the field in the middle of game time to take a sip from their newly purchased and BPA-free water bottles, spend more time kicking the ball out of bounds than the do in the actual goal.  If the constant delays and prompts from the coaches to the kids to follow the ball aren't entertaining enough, you also are guaranteed to have at least one set of token crazy parents shaming their child from the sidelines with cries of "Your team NEEDS YOU!  Keep your eye on the ball!  Run!" to keep you engaged.

At least, such was the case for us on this overcast first Fall game.

Camille looked as if she could care less about the task at hand, save for waving to her rather large Duggan fan club from the sidelines and this,she did with great joy de vivre as the ball ran right in front of her and into the clutches of her "opponent."

After the first painful and chaotic game of the season, John and I decided she needed a little coaching, you know a little parental motivation and direction.  It was with this intent that John used a teachable moment on the way to the second game.

"Camille, do you know what you are supposed to do?" he asked.  "You are supposed to kick the ball in the net.  That's it.  Get the ball in the net."

I turned around so I could look her in the eye.  

"That's right, Camille.  Your goal is pretty simple.  Get the ball and kick it into the goal.  Can you do that, right?"

She smiled.

"Will I get a snack afterwards?"

Since it was my turn to bring team snacks, I downplayed my purchase of pint sized water bottles and red delicious apples.  She didn't need to know I bypassed the strawberry pop tarts on aisle five in favor of nature's candy. 

"Yep, most definitely.  You will get a snack."

She clapped with glee.

"Yeah, I can get a goal."

When we arrived to the field, we unloaded the children and the lawn chairs and the end of the world supply of snack provisions.  I walked Camille over to her coach and before I left her charged in his care, I whispered,

"Remember, get a goal.  That's all you have to do."

And she did.

Two of them.

And the next week, she scored four and every week after that Camille has successfully elbowed another kid (even her own teammates if she has to) to gain control over the ball.  And each time she kicks the ball into the net, she turns to us, her adoring fans, smiling, and says:

"See? I did it!  Can I get some of that candy now. "

The girl has her priorities.