We chatted about practice during breakfast. He was excited about the prospect of doing what we did yesterday with a lot of kids. All the running and kicking yesterday resulted in a lot of laughing, and that undoubtedly fueled his enthusiasm for today. I was a little worried that, as he’s done other times, the Boy might start having second thoughts as the moment approached, but there was none of that. We put his shoes on sans shin guards, which were too small we decided, and headed to the field.
We met the coach, and E began following the other children’s example and kicking goals. His first shots were comparatively strong, hard shots. The coach’s daughter, who was a couple of years older than the players, was standing in as goalie and E’s shot flew right by her into the back of the net. I remembered how relatively tentatively L would shoot goals at the beginning and thought this might be a good sign.
Practice shifted and the coach explained to the little ones what dribbling is and set them off toward the mid-field. Some children set off at a light jog, kicking the ball a few feet in front of them and running to catch up. Others kicked it with all their might and ran to the ball. E and a few others delicately pushed the ball with each foot as he stepped forward, a slow and deliberate journey to the mid-field. Yesterday, it was the opposite: wild abandon, kicking the ball and running as fast as he could. Such a change today. “He’s not doing it like we practiced yesterday,” I thought, wondering why he was being so very careful. It might have been tempting to compare his journey to other children’s, but to what end? He is who he is, and he was doing the exercise the way he felt comfortable doing it. I was thankful for that.
The Girl spent the first half of practice reading. She finished her book and began again with a shrug. She’s got some books that she’s read so many times that she must have them virtually memorized. The second half of practice she headed to a playground down at the edge of the fields and made a few new friends with other older sisters. What did they talk about? I so rarely see E with other girls — our neighborhood is simply filled with boys — that I can’t imagine. That shift must slowly be starting, mustn’t it? Surely they’re not talking about which Barbies they have (L hasn’t had any in years) and similar topics. Fingernail polish? School?
While I wasn’t able to watch and listen to the Girl’s interactions with her new friends, I was able watch the Boy interact with adults without my mediation. He listened well, remember later in practice the earlier instruction to stand with one foot on the ball when the coach is teaching a new skill. He did the best he could, but as a four-year-old will always do, he regularly checked to see where I was, making sure I was still on the sideline. The Girl became so absorbed in her activities that we could have easily left her behind — she never would have noticed until the other girls left.
That independence is growing and will only increase, I know. Are we ready for it? Ready or not, it’s coming.