On soccer balls and ballerina buns

It had to happen. As a matter of fact, I’ve been expecting it for a long time. My nearly 13-year-old son has made a decision without input from anybody else.

Despite repeated questions to see if he’d changed his mind he has remained steadfast on the subject of soccer.

Hmmm … no.” He told me last week after I asked him for the umpteenth time. “I don’t want to play soccer this year.”

Are you sure?” I prodded and then I made one last ditch effort. “The deadline for registering is today, you know.”

It didn’t work. He just shrugged his shoulders like it was no big deal and that was that. He’s not going to play this spring which means I’m no longer a soccer dad.

His decision is not surprising. He’s never really been all that interested in sports. I think he played soccer, especially over the past couple seasons, merely to please his mother and me.

What’s more baffling is my reaction to his decision. It’s not like I’m a huge sports guy, either. I played baseball as a kid but I never took it very far. I quit when I was about as old as my son is now. I guess the chip really doesn’t fall that far from the block.

And yet, I’m going to miss hanging out at twice-a-week practices that last well into the evening and the games that require me to drag myself out of bed early on a Saturday with only a hot cup of coffee with which to keep warm on a frigid early spring morning.

But the boy is growing up. It’s time he starts making his own choices and this is one I left to him. His choices may not always be the ones I want him to make but what kid ever makes decisions based on what their parents want? The best we can hope for is that they make good choices that count in the long run.

Okay, I’m done being maudlin.

I’d like to remain a soccer dad but Plan B appears to be a non-starter. My younger daughter has never shown any interest whatsoever . I could just sign her up and make her play but she made her opposition to that idea clear years ago.

I’m not a sports girl, dad,” she told me firmly the first time I asked. It’s her pat answer every time I’ve asked since and is usually accompanied by daggers in her eyes.

She may not let me be a soccer dad, again but at least I’m still a dance dad.

If you doubt my ability in this area I point you to my willingness to help put her hair up in a ballerina bun.

I was anxious when my wife told me that a pony tail wouldn’t be good enough anymore. We were on a lunch date when she casually let it drop that the dance studio now requires the “dancer’s do” for each lesson and that it would be my responsibility as I’m the one who’s home on dance day.

A ballerina bun involves pulling a dancer’s hair back so severely that their eyes pop out and twisting it up in a tight bun to make sure they stay that way. Bobby pins, a hair net and an entire bottle of hair spray are required to achieve this look.

I was left in charge of this operation for the first time two weeks ago – or rather, I thought I was in charge. In any case, when my daughter got home from school I hustled her into her dance clothes first thing. We generally only have about 45 minutes before her lesson and I wanted to maximize the time I could spend contorting her hair into a bun.

To make a long story short, my daughter quickly grew frustrated at my clumsy attempts to bend her hair to my will and took matters into her own hands. In no time she fashioned what I took to be a decent bun. It may not have passed close inspection but it looked good at a distance and that was good enough for me. All we needed was a few well placed bobby pins to get her bangs out of her face and we were off. We even arrived at the dance studio early.

I know my daughter will eventually make a similar decision about dance that her brother has made about soccer. In the meantime, I’ll be working on my ballerina bun know-how. Plus, I’ve still got the soccer balls squirreled away in the garage just in case one or both of them changes their mind.


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