It was like suiting up an astronaut for a spacewalk.
Wearing nothing but tighty-whities emblazed with rocket ships so he would “run fast” during his very first soccer game, my four-year-old son anxiously stood among a pile of shorts, jersey, socks, shin guards and cleats.
And I had no idea what the jock strap was doing in there. It’s not like he has that much to protect at this point. Girls are from Venus and boys are from, well, any planet that enjoys beer, football, naked women and cheese puffs.
As I pondered where to start this dressing ritual, my son picked up a shin guard, shoved his hand through it and pulled it up his arm.
One could safely assume I hadn’t given birth to the next Pele.
I picked up an outrageously long navy blue sock and asked my husband, “Do they think our son is 6-feet tall or that he is descended from a long line of giraffes?”
My husband laughed and added, “Maybe they’re supposed to double as hip waders. You know, in case it starts raining during the game.”
That was followed by a shriek of “COME ON, MOM! LET’S GO!” from the little guy wearing rocket underwear and waving a shin-guarded arm in my face.
OK, so he’s not quite ready for his appearance on the Wheaties box or the cover of “Sports Illustrated.” At least he was enthusiastic about it.
Back to the socks...a wise friend who was no longer a soccer-parent virgin had warned me about these socks.
“They’re long enough to use as bungee cords,” he said. “So here’s what you gotta do: put them on first, then strap on the shin guards and roll the top of the socks down over the shin guards. Problem solved.”
Well, that certainly made more sense than pulling them up to his armpits. And sounded a lot more comfortable too. But not nearly so fun to watch him try to walk that way. Which I did.
For a few minutes. Thanks, I needed a laugh.
Aw, it was a Dear Diary moment: watching my son run onto the field for his very first soccer game.
I played the sport for several years, so I was happy to witness this event. You know, before I lose him to his dad’s preferences of T-ball and football and naked women.
Each of the six little boys looked outrageously cute in their tiny uniforms. They followed the coach’s example and plopped down on the ground to begin their pre-game warm-ups. Tiny arms reached out to touch tiny toes.
“Awww,” I gushed and tried to block the tears from flowing.
My embarrassed husband snorted and asked, “Are you gonna do this the entire time?”
I shook my head and answered, “No, I’m gonna be tough. Rocky tough. Make it through ‘Steel Magnolias’ without crying at the funeral scene tough.”
And then one of the little guys high-fived my son in the universal sign of We Are Cool.
Let the wailing begin.
Oh, it was ugly.
The other team slaughtered our little guys. Up and down the field, scoring goal after goal, they methodically ripped through our defense like Oprah with a Snickers bar. Meanwhile, our team was busy kicking the dirt, playing with the field flags and comparing jersey numbers.
As the other team stole the ball - again - and took off down the field - again, I yelled out to my son, “You’re on defense now, Gabe!”
Without missing a beat, the little guy immediately dropped down into a 3-point football stance like a lineman ready for the snap count.
I started laughing so hard, I actually wet my pants a little.
So what? I’m not ashamed. I gave birth, for chrissakes, and surrendered all control of my bodily functions after that point. I wet my pants every time I sneeze, bend over or if it’s a Tuesday. Comes with the territory. So moving along....
In between howls of laughter at the sight of my son squatting on the ground while the rest of the team flew by him in the other direction, I sputtered, “Wrong sport! (laugh) You’re playing soccer (snort) not football (pee in pants)!”
Oh, well. It’s not about winning the game, I thought. It’s about learning rules and sportsmanship. It’s about being a teammate and wearing cool socks and rocket underwear.
Speaking of underwear...