A Day of First Things…


Today was a crazy day. There were so many things. Like big things. Like big first things. Things that were momentous for my kids but really, way more for me. And one of those big things brought up a big parenting question for me, but we’ll get to that. And I know you’re all “what the eff is she talking about?” right now, so I’ll try to get on with it.

The first big first thing was this:

It was The Nibbit’s first day back to preschool (he’s in the Fours class this year, despite not turning four until December… thank you stupid Connecticut State cut-off date) and it was Happy Dude’s first day of school EVER. (He’s in the Twos class this year, despite not turning two until November… thank you stup… you get it.)

I was simply not sure how this day would go. And I was unwilling to guess because in the past, I’ve always been wrong. As the Loud One is my most emotional kid, I always expected her to have a hard time separating and she never did. When The Nibbit started school, I thought it would be Easy Breezy for him and… um, not so much. In fact, he was still having a bad day here and there right up until the end of last year. (I blame it on all the violence in The Wild Kratz… really, what else would cause him to act out like that?)

So we went to preschool today not knowing what to expect. We brought The Nibbit to his classroom first. He was excited to see his friends and teachers. He tackled one of them. Physical Aggression: Check! He dove right in and when I asked for a kiss goodbye, this happened:

I’ll take it.

Then we went to Happy Dude’s classroom and he was barely in the door when his magical teacher got down to his level and shared some truck magnets with him. Well, she had him at “truck.”

He never looked back, and when I went to pick him up, he barely seemed to notice that I had been gone. “And you are…. ?”

Of course, I’m not getting too cocky… I know that the whole thing is not a done deal. The novelty of school will wear off for The Nibbit and Happy Dude may not be as easy to distract next time, especially now that he knows I leave.

But it was a nice first thing.

The second first thing was this:

The Nibbit’s first day of soccer

This kid loves playing soccer at home and has been EAGERLY awaiting his turn to play. He was VERY excited about the cleats (and presumably the damage they would do to anything he stepped on while wearing them) and the rest of the gear.

He counted down the days and it was finally time! We got to the field a few minutes early so he ran out to the field with some of the other kids and started kicking his ball around! This was awesome! (… especially because it was SO not the experience I had with The Loud One.)

Side note: A few years ago, LO told me that she wanted to play soccer. She REALLY wanted to play soccer. PLEEEEAAASSSSE would I let her play soccer?? Despite my misgivings – and I had a few – I gave in and signed her up. We got as far as the sideline. Then, she cried. And whined. And moaned. About the heat. About the cleats. About the shorts. About LIFE IN GENERAL which had treated her so unfairly… by bringing her to a soccer field!! Can you believe the audacity?

But noooo, not my Nibbit! He was out there, doing his thing! I was all set for a quiet hour on the sidelines with my iPad. Right? If I could double-all caps this next word, I would –> WRONG.

The coaches called all the players into a huddle where they presumably said something like, “Hi. We’re your coaches. This is going to be fun. We’re going to learn how to play soccer.”


Well. The Nibbit comes running across the field towards me, full-sprint, SOBBING. “I don’t want to play this game! I don’t like soccer! I want to go home!”

COME. ON. Are you kidding me?

But. But. But. There was such promise! You love those cleats!

Nope. He calmed down enough to tell me that the coaches mentioned something about a tag-like game and he does NOT like tag and he does NOT want to play and he just wants to sit with me. So we sat. We watched. We had this type of ongoing dialogue:

Me: Wow, those boys can run fast.
Nibbit: I not going to run that fast.
Me: That games looks like so much fun!
Nibbit: I not going to play that game.
Me: Oooh, I wonder what the coach is saying to the group.
Nibbit: I not going to see what the coach is saying.

 Then, on the way home, THIS happened:

Hmmm, maybe he’s sleepy.

So, all of this brings me to my now-very-predictable parenting question.

BUT before I bring it up, I have one other first thing. Which is not really a first thing, but more like a first thing revisited.


She’s back in the saddle!

The Loud One started horseback riding lessons when she was 3 ½ . She took them on-and-off for about eight months, during which her sensory issues got worse and we started having weekly battles about her wearing the required pants, boots and helmet. I couldn’t handle the tantrums every week for something that was voluntary and more importantly, supposed to be fun so I told her that she needed to take a break until she could get her shit together. (Oh relax, I did not say those words to her. I said, “… until you get your SHITE together.” Better?)

Over the years, she brought up riding again once in a while, but only recently really started to push about trying again. I told her the required gear was the same. And she said she would be OK with it.

And GUESS WHAT… she was! Look at that picture again! My girl’s wearing a helmet, boots and PANTS, people. PANTS! Do you know how huge this is?

I was so proud of her up on that horse. Of course, I have no idea how long this will last but for today, she wore PANTS! Oh yeah, and rode a horse!

OK, so back to my question. And I am not kidding about this… I want input. So hit the damn “Leave a comment” button and tell me how to parent my kid. (And when I say “me,” I really mean “us.” KJ totally wants your help, too.)

The question is, what do we do about The Nibbit and soccer?

Obviously, I am hoping that next week is a whole different story and he has a great time. He was obviously tired today and the whole first day of school was draining and blah blah blah. But let’s be realistic, it’s way more likely that he is now soured on the sport and will not want to go. Ever.

Assume we go back next week and he is still not interested. What would YOU do? Would you force your kid to go week after week and try to play? Or just sit there and watch? Do you give in and let him/her QUIT? What kind of lesson is that? Does it matter what kind of lesson that is? What about the money? We can’t get a refund for this, so should THAT be a factor in the decision?

This is not the first time this has happened in our family and I’m never completely satisfied with the way we handle these things. I know he’s only 3½ so I’m not trying to make this a bigger deal than it should be, but you know me, I never miss an opportunity to completely screw up my kids!

So here’s your chance to shine, Parenting Gurus… let him quit or force him to go? START SHINING.

20 responses »

  1. k,
    This is from a crazy mother, not a teacher.
    That nice teenage boy next door…slip him a twenty to play soccer with your middle child, and go to soccer early next week so the Nibbit can ease in by helping the coach set up the cones and pass out the balls to his new buddies.
    Shoot coach an email giving him a heads up. If he is noncommittal, becoming the snack mom and bribing with food/gatorade, may work.
    If it’s still no good, you or KJ must become an official coach by the spring-

  2. From a mom with a psych background, here are a few suggestions.
    1. Take The Nibbit to practice. Parallel play with him on the side line. Maybe if he can play soccer near the team it will be easier for him to transfer into playing with them.
    2. Bribery is also a good option. Promise him a treat (a new toy truck or ice cream) if he practices with the team (just for the first time).
    3. Try systematic desensitization. Talk a lot about the practice and the team. Through out practice get him to sit closer and closer to the team. Work into playing with the team with asking for 5 minutes of participation, then 10, then 20. At some point he may forget the time limit and start to enjoy himself.
    4. Finally, kids develop at different paces. Maybe he just isn’t ready for a team sport. You are not going to scar your child by letting him back out of a commitment when he is only 3 1/2! Check in with him next year and see if he is interested.
    Also remember lots of change at the same time can be scary. Maybe beginning school and soccer at the same time was overwhelming. Once he is settled into school, he may be ready to add soccer.

    • Kathryn! Thank you so much… so many good ideas here!! I am a frequent practitioner of bribery… I can’t believe I didn’t think of that yesterday. And I’ll definitely do #1 next week… better dust off my cleats. Thanks again for responding!

  3. Here’s my two cents, which we all know is really worth about 1/10 of a cent. I wouldn’t mention soccer at all for the next week. When the next practice comes up, casually say, “let’s get dressed for soccer practice,” as if nothing happened the week before. If he starts up on not wanting to go, suggest that he try it just one more time. If he’s still really not into it after that practice, then let it go and save yourself the agony. I’ve been there before (as you know), and it’s pure hell to try and talk your kid into doing something they don’t want to do (even if they insisted they really did want to do it just a few days earlier).

  4. My opinion is this: this happens with every kid in soccer. Every kid. It’s soccer for 3 and 4 year olds. I say you just let it be what it is. If he doesn’t like it, I wouldn’t force it. T did the same thing, twice. You will have many other opportunities to tell your children they can’t quit and that they made a commitment, etc. Having said that, I totally struggled with this as well when I went through it and now in retrospect, I don’t think it was a major factor in determining or affecting anything very much. Plus, it WAS really hot, E was a pain to keep off the field, and when it was raining or had rained there was no where dry to sit. I didn’t like it either. Now INDOOR soccer at the Fairfield Sportscomplex was a HUGE hit. T loved it. Hope that helps!

  5. Aaaah yes, I know what you are going through.
    When Karl (now7) took soccer at 3, he basically sought out the cones st he could wear them on his head. Never really participated, but STILL got the trophy at the end. Still to this day he says, “Why did they give me a trophy, I didn’t do anything!” He did not continue another season.
    Harrison clung to my leg the first day, but later played…actually playing! And he was pretty good too!
    Now when I was about to sign him up again, he screamed “noooooooo! I don’t want to play!!!”
    So we don’t. Go figure.
    Let me know when you have it figured out, I sure as hell don’t!

  6. I have absolutely no advice for you whatsoever. I barely can motivate myself, let alone my 4 yr old. But I feel for you. Give him another week, at least. He might forget he hated it and regain some enthusiasm when he sees the team again. Also, I am stealing all the above listed advice for future reference. Good luck! And tell the Loud One she looks AWESOME on that horse!

  7. We tried last spring with EB – same deal – she really wanted to play soccer. When we got there, she was just not that into it! And would rather go to the park or somewhere – anywhere but the soccer field. We kept going, but she wasn’t into it at all – which was fine. We tried, but I chalked it up to being too early for her to play. It’s a tough call Mac.

  8. I was shocked how tired the girls were yesterday after their first day of school. It was only two hours! But they were pooped. I think you did a great thing staying to watch soccer together. Maybe he’ll be more inspired next week. Maybe not. But I would bring him a few more times to see if things click.

  9. Loved your article, but zoomed right into the comments hoping for some guidance myself! My theory has always been “we are not quitters!” which has been torture on all of us, but has finally resinated in my 6 year old to always follow things through. I feel your pain! I have been there! Heck, I am still there. My son “played” soccer last year at age 2. By “playing” I mean he sat in the goal, picked the grass, drank his water and ate his bribery snack (clearly of which I gave in too early – but who wants to listen to those whines and screams!). So, what did I do? Signed him up again this year. Hey, I’m an eternal optimist! We have yet to start, but I have high hopes. So, here’s my advice… you can either sign your child up for these great activities and hope that something sticks, which, you may recall, never stuck with you as a kid (and by you, I mean me) OR you can take the money that you would have used to pay for the activity and put it into one of those savings jars for your child’s future – you know, the one labeled therapy, in between the college and orthodontics jars. If all else fails… bring your own water bottle to soccer practice and fill it with a nice cold margarita!

  10. i honestly cant give too much advice..we didnt do any sport activities until they were closer to 5 starting school which is to say that we have only one playing anything. I dont know which way to go with this. Brien tells Jayden we dont quit but she was 5/6 years old. So I think if I was to put Vanessa in something now, I would keep going a few more times to practice telling her that her friends are having so much fun and that they want her to have fun and run around too. I like the idea of going early to help set up with the coach and see if he wants to get involved that way too. A new coach, new teachers and new daily plan could have been overwhelming that first day. I wouldnt give up just yet..give it one or two more tries to really see!!! Good luck!!!!!

  11. Perhaps I’m “Old school” but I suggest using an electric cattle prod. (They are difficult to find nowadays, so maybe just a good large leather belt will have to do) If that doesn’t work I suggest you sign him up for a youth Rugby league (or LaCrosse) and after a few games let HIM decide which he wants to do. Hope this helps?

  12. As my mother points out when this sort of thing happens in my household–the money is gone either way. So you can deal with the melt down hassles and add stress to your day by forcing him to go and either sort of play or sit on the side but in the mean time you are adding stress to your day you presumably don’t need not to mention wasting your time which you presumably do need. So I say go one more time then if it’s a no go, drop it.

  13. Pingback: An Update on Soccer (and other things) « Who Needs a Nap?

  14. Remember that we didn’t start sports until we were like eight years old. I think these days sports start WAY too early (and this is coming from a sports fanatic). Due to peer pressure, as parents we give in to feeling like our kids “need” participate in all kinds of activities, but they don’t. And believe me, I am SO incredibly guilty of this. I say if he’s not into it at the next practice, bag soccer and let him relax at home. He’s not ready. It’s not time yet for the, “when you make a commitment you follow through” talk. When they are this young, it is the parent who is making the decision to play soccer, because the kids don’t really have any idea what they are getting into.

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