Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Mighty Battle

Last spring, on the soccer field, The Storm struggled with confidence.  It was a dreadful season that she spent mostly on the sidelines while her teammates went on to earn her medals that she cherished, because she's nine and they're shiny medallions on necklaces of ribbon. But it was complicated for her. I could see it in her eyes.

Feeling something bigger than soccer threatening our little girl, Balthazar and I grew frustrated. With the game. With the coach. With each other. With The Storm. 

"Why aren't you even trying?" we'd ask in the car after another full weekend of tournament games that we'd spent watching other people's daughters race around the field, while The Storm sat watching from the bench.

Occasionally, when we'd hear the coach call out her name, we'd perk up in our lawn chairs, fold our hands as if in prayer to hold near our faces while The Storm took her jog across the field into position, looking so tiny in her uniform with her shoulders curled in around her chest.  Still, we hoped, we hoped with every ounce of our parental beings that this would be the game when she would rise, let loose, show the world what we knew was inside of her and her sized two and half cleats.  Even though her posture told us otherwise.

Then the coach would call her out again.

Confidence. She and I have battled more times than I care to count.  On the page, in the mirror, in my own backyard--you name the arena, she and I have had a go-round there.  Some years she wins. Others, I own that bitch.  But, I can't exactly tell you how I win, when I do. Sometimes I get lucky. Sometimes, I'm just stronger or smarter; I've slept a better night or eaten a better breakfast; sometimes I'm just so damn desperate that I have no choice but to take her down.

"You're one of the best players on your team," I kept encouraging The Storm. But the minutes on the bench were adding up to an entire season and The Storm was losing faith in herself as quickly as her coach and her teammates were.

She would be asked to leave. Other girls, her bench friends, had already moved on.

And this is where it gets complicated because this is The Storm were talking about, and she values her friendships above all else. Plus, she is excruciatingly socially aware and if she were asked to leave her team of friends, she and Confidence would simply take it off the field to the schoolyard, and the classroom, the pool and the park, maybe even to middle and high school where her adversary's younger meaner cousin, Low Self-Esteem, might bully the crap out of her.

I've lost years to this nasty piece of work.... So, how could I let her get her claws into baby so early?

Ten minutes, maybe two, before the coach would come to me to talk, I went to him. I asked him for the summer and he, the father of his own soccer players, consented.  I hired private coaching for her, not so much to improve her skills as to make her believe she'd improved her skills. I took her out as often as I could, all the time staring down her confidence issues from the sidelines. Like a mother bear.

And slowly, ever so slowly, over the course of the summer I saw her shoulders settle back into place.

On Saturday, at the first game of the first tournament of the season--in sized three and half cleats now--The Storm played the best game of her short little life. And she played it the way only her parents ever knew she could.

"Perfection," said the coach after the game.

"Perfection," we agreed.

Take that you bitch!

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