Captain Agro’s Pre-tween Soccer School

The following is the tale of Hubs’s brief and bittersweet side career as the soccer coach of eight to ten-year old girls. That’s right, pre-tweens. The age group before the age group that terrifies intelligent adults and drives Disney Channel marketing. The names have not been changed because nobody is innocent.

This year Riley decided that she was a little bored with gymnastics and wanted to try something new. Riley’s BFF plays soccer, so Riley decided that she’d like to give soccer a try too, despite the fact that she and her BFF couldn’t play on the same team. You see, Riley’s birthday is in April, which puts her in the eight-ten age group, while her BFF’s birthday is in August, putting her in a younger category.

You’d never know it by looking at them, but Riley is older by three months. A veritable old lady by comparison. She could break a hip at any moment.

Old lady on the right. As you can see, osteoporosis is already curving her spine.

However, as it turned out, the soccer organization was desperate for coaches, so they offered to put Riley and her BFF on the same team if Hubs agreed to coach.

Now Hubs knows a thing or two about a thing or two; cycling, wrestling, pond hockey, and all manner of combat and law enforcement lie within his areas of expertise. But he knows absolutely bupkis about soccer. He could effectively train an elite squad of pre-tween crime fighting assassins. But he has no idea what to do with a soccer ball, unless of course you tell him to kill someone with it.

Despite his lack of expertise and extra time, Hubs saw coaching as an opportunity to ease our introverted daughter’s entry into the sport by providing her with the security of her BFF. And as an added bonus, he could be a part of Riley’s pre-Olympic sports career. He figured that teaching pre-tween girls was only marginally more intimidating than kicking down the doors of armed criminals, which he considers just a fun way to spend a Monday morning.

Hubs told Riley. She was ecstatic and declared Hubs a hero. He purchased a book on coaching giggly girls. All was right with the world. A rainbow hung over our house every day and unicorns crapped on our front lawn.

Unicorn poop may be rainbow-colored and sprinkled with stars but it will still kill your grass. (image via themarysue)

Then at the first coaches’ meeting, Hubs got his team roster and discovered (gasp!) there was no BFF on the list.

Whaaaaaa??

When he brought it to the attention of the powers-that-be he was told that he must have misinterpreted the offer because the organization would never mix such vastly different ages as eight and eight-plus-three-months together on the same team. That was crazy talk! They meant that they would sometimes put two girls of EXACTLY the same age on the same team even if they were friends. Then they told him to have a nice day and enjoy coaching.

“Sir, may I suggest what you can do with your ‘nice day’, sir?”

Hubs was not pleased. He’d been hoodwinked. To his credit, he didn’t pull his weapon and administer a body cavity search at the meeting, but he did come home and draft a lengthy email, which then needed to be edited heavily to delete foul language and implications of violence. Then he tossed and turned all night. For the next three nights. And wore down his molars.

Despite his carefully crafted, non-threatening arguments, the soccer organization refused to put the girls on the same team. In and of itself this would have been frustrating but not disastrous if Hubs had not shared this plan with Riley. But he had.

Have you ever destroyed the dream of an eight-year old girl? It resembles a scene from a Telenovela but in English.

“Sin mi amigo yo me morirĂ© sin duda!” Translation: “without my friend I will surely die!” (image via jahpeaceful666)

Riley decided that soccer was the devil’s sport, run by terrible ogres bent on breaking the hearts of small girls. She requested that the man in charge be flogged or at least arrested for deliberate meanness. I tried but could not sway her opinion and Hubs, who was on-board with the flogging idea, decided that he would not use soccer as an opportunity for the two of them to bond in misery, so he gave the organization the one fingered salute tactfully resigned and we enrolled Riley in swimming class.

And that was it. Hubs’s brief and bittersweet side career as a pre-tween soccer coach was over before it began. Riley will never rip off her soccer jersey to display her sports bra after winning the Olympic gold. We will never have David Beckham or Mia Hamm over for dinner. All we’re left with is a front lawn full of unicorn crap.

The soccer organization had better hope that Hubs doesn’t figure out a way to weaponize unicorn crap.

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Separation Anxiety

I’m a bit maudlin today. Earlier this morning I stealth cried into my daughter’s hair while listening to a Kimbra CD (the emotional equivalent of crying at a Disneyland).

You see, I’m having a hard time handling Riley’s maturation.

I know what you’re thinking. “You, Kelly? But you handle everything with such ease, hardly a ruffle in your outer veneer of total competence.”

I know. I too am baffled. I actually expected to enjoy this part of parenting quite a bit. My mother seemed to enjoy it. And during those sleepless nights when my babies only wanted me to hold them I thought wistfully of their future independence. Both of my children were very attached to me.

True, Conor would sprint toward traffic if given a moment’s chance. But that was only because he knew how much I enjoyed the heart attack and subsequent chase, while toting a diaper bag and insensible shoes. He’s a thoughtful boy, that one.

Riley, however, would hardly leave my side to play at the park. You could always count on her to stay close in stores or any other public forum. She craved my closeness. I appreciated her attachment, but at the same time I wanted some confidence for her, some sense that all would be okay if she wasn’t holding my hand.

So here it is.

This weekend Riley slept over at her best friend’s house two nights in a row. She prefers to sleep at their house. They have a pool. Totally understandable. Riley now prefers the company of her best friend to mine and then spends whatever time she and I have together talking about her best friend and what they did together. I get that. I remember how that was. I am happy that she found some assurance in the world outside of my arms.

Well maybe happy is too simple a word. If you took happiness, added misery and heartbreak and then mixed it up into a muddy swirl of ambivalence you would be closer to how I feel about my daughter’s mounting independence. My little girl is separating from me. It reminds me of the time my mom had to rip off the rest of my big toe nail after a gruesome toe-stubbing. Only this is bloodier and deeper and hasn’t been followed by a trip to The King’s Table buffet restaurant.

And I know that further separation is inevitable and the thought of it eviscerates my tender mommy emotions. Dang it! I hate being a needy pile of mush. Please tell me that I’m not going to spend day after day staring out my bedroom window while singing George Michael’s Careless Whisper badly and full of feeling.

I am, aren’t I?

I can’t say I wasn’t warned, hadn’t watched other women go through this or listened to them talk about it. But I honestly didn’t think it would apply to me. I swear to God, I thought I would handle this transition sh!t smoothly. In no way did I anticipate that I would miss her so badly while she was still living in my home. Nor did I see myself mooning over her baby pictures, longing to smell her baby breath once more.

Ah, baby breath. It smells like love dipped in sweet cream. And there is absolutely no way to save it for posterity. I have Riley’s first shoes in a box, but what I really want is her baby breath in a bottle and the smell of her baby head on my pillow at night.

I am psychotic.

I’m not the only one who’s suffering here. Conor is also struggling with the changes in his sister. He’s baffled that the girl who used to dote on him, suddenly doesn’t want him around, doesn’t want to include him when she’s playing with her friend, doesn’t think anything he says is cute or funny. When she spends the night elsewhere, Conor asks where she is. Hourly. His heartbreak is second only to mine.

Maybe we can sing a duet of Careless Whisper. I should teach him the words.