Last fall, Charlie signed up to play soccer. He was all in. But his brother? Not so much. You see, Joseph has an internal need to be an observer for a while in most situations. He was perfectly content to sit on the sidelines and try to figure it all out. For a child whose short life has been out of control in many ways, he desires to do things in his time once he's had a chance to digest it all.
Throughout the season, we prompted Joseph to play, too, but his answer was consistently--and resoundingly--"No." And we were fine with that. But we still nudged him from time to time.
At the last game of the season, I had a conversation with the team organizer and asked if I could sign the boys up on the same team for the spring season, and he gave us the green light. When I informed the boys that they could play soccer together, Joey's whole demeanor changed. We saw a smile on his face for the first time that "soccer" and "Joey" were used in the same sentence.
Finding shoes for his special little feet was a feat in itself. I ended up finding some wide cleats online and allowed him to choose the color, in hopes that his enthusiasm would stick around. When the shoes arrived, he excitedly tried them on and insisted that he loved them and that he would wear them. Check.
We continued to build up the excitement for him, until it was finally time for their first practice. Out came the shin guards, the socks, the cleats--and out came the meltdown. And I mean meltdown. He kicked. He screamed. He went rigid as a board, and he wailed that he didn't want to play soccer. Our son was totally consumed by panic. It was brutal--the shoes were suddenly "too tight" and I was accused of "forcing him to play soccer." I knew what was behind all of his irrational behavior--it was fear. Fear of something new, fear of major change--the deepest, most traumatic experiences in his life were surfacing, all in the name of soccer.
Thankfully, I'd been praying for extra grace that week, so instead of reacting with anger at the situation, I managed to pause, breathe, and find my grace place. I told him it was okay to take the shoes off and that we'd bring everything to the field. It worked. We packed everything in a bag and raced out the door. He was still crying in the car but managed to calm down as we neared the field. I was still sweating, of course.
I approached the coach and asked if it would be okay for Joey to wear his sneakers for the first practice. Thank God, he said yes. And then this happened...
He was amazing! The boys had so much fun. Joey--in typical stride--paid such close attention and followed every instruction. Yes, this mom was in tears as I soaked in those special moments, especially given the rough start of the evening. Joseph had come so far, and he was so proud of himself!
So, one might think it would be smooth sailing after that, right? Nope. Practice night two brought the ugly trauma right back into place. Another meltdown ensued, and this time Joseph screamed a few not-so-nice words at his mama. I knew it was stress talking, and not him, so I let it go. We finally convinced him (and might have bribed him with a sucker) to wear the cleats to the field, which he did. And once he got out there to play, he was golden. Phew.
Fast forward to today. It was the boys' first game. I worried a bit, but we'd sufficiently prepped them through the week, and Joey actually seemed excited for his first game. When time came to get dressed, he still complained about his tight shoes, but we were able to get them on his feet and keep them on with some coaxing and promises that they would loosen up. We got to the field and he was happy to choose jersey number 7. Charlie picked number 5.
Their first soccer game was awesome! Joey came really close to scoring a couple of goals and learned a few things about goal-tending. He was a bit tentative in the offensive position but that will change in time once he's more comfortable and realizes it's okay to kick the ball more than once.
The important part is that he LOVED it, and I think we're over the hump (fingers crossed...) And Charlie? He's just the best, as usual. We are so proud of our boys. They rock!