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9to5to9: When mom’s right to insist

Submitted by on Sunday, 5 October 2008 No Comment

Last August, I didn’t give Reticent Kid’s soccer career more than a week, two max.

He cried through the first practice. Second practice there weren’t as many tears, but he pretty much was epoxied to his mom for the hour.

He cried through the first game. Even when he was playing goalie, which is the favorite position of reticent young’uns, because they get what to do. That and the goal makes a great pretend tent/fort/castle if you’re tired of watching everyone run away from you.

The second game, he protested a bit before standing gamely in at goalie. His mom stayed near him, offering reassurance.

And by the end of the game, he had a huge smile.

How’d you do that? I asked his mom.

Told him he could have a Slurpee after the game if he’d give it a try, she smiled. I, of course, am morally opposed to bribes. Unless they work.

In this case, it did.

This year, Reticent Kid’s taking charge at goalie, played solid defense in … oh, whatever that position is called that stands near the goalie … and chasing the ball down field on offense. He clowns with Big Guy during warm-ups and sold me some of the most putrid flavors of candy canes imaginable when he wasn’t playing last week. I was relieved they weren’t real.

Thus completing a 180 that never would have happened had his mom not insisted.

What!? Force a kid to play sports. Why, that’s just wrong. Even the Mayo Clinic says so.

Letting kids play organized — if you can call under 6 soccer organized — sports at all is controversial, with some insisting that parents do it to live vicariously through their kids or in a wrong-minded attempt to mold a future superstar.

A 2001 study put the average age for starting team play at 6. Big Guy and Reluctant Kid were 4 their first season.

So was I on a pathetic mission to compensate for my own uncoordinated childhood? And was Reticent Kid’s mom trying to make sure he lands on the 2026 World Cup team?


In my case, Big Guy had been begging for a year, every since he and I played soccer on an adjoining baseball field when we went to an older cousin’s games.

In Reticent Kid’s case, his mom knew he would enjoy playing once she got past a certain level of knee-jerk resistance I know so well. That’s why I was relieved to see Big Guy’s sandals die this week. It saves me the trouble of prying them off his feet around Thanksgiving.

Reticent Kid wasn’t the only crier last season either. One girl sullenly stomped at goalie and refused to run past midfield early in the season, but she finished the year all smiles, too.

So here’s to Reticent Kid’s mom and all the other parents in the world who force their kids to do something. Except let’s not call it “force” — that’s so pejorative. Let’s call it “persuading by steady insistence and the occasional bribe.”

There, of course, comes a time when “steady insistence” can cross over into force, and I don’t believe in bludgeoning kids for months on end to do something that clearly makes them miserable. Unless it’s their homework.

Reticent Kid’s mom was right a year ago, both in her steady insistence and in Slurpee therapy.

A year later, his goofy grin proves that every Saturday.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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