Eager and anxious parents stand on the sidelines yelling laughably loud anytime a kid touches the ball. If you recorded the cheers only, documented the number of pictures and video taping minutes, you would never guess this was just a regular Saturday soccer game, for 4 year-olds.
We affectionately call soccer for the little ones herd ball. The ball moves, the herd runs after it and if they catch the ball, the boldest players stand in a huddle kicking it until it escapes the herd and they can run after it again. Usually there is goalie or player on the field playing with the grass, swinging from the top of the goal. And often there is one player crying or one parent fighting anger or tears. The player because no one will share the ball. The parent because she can’t understand why her daughter won’t try to get the ball.
We spend the first years of our child’s life teaching them to share everything but sippy cups and diapers. Then we put them on the soccer field and ask them to steal the ball, ignore the player who fell to the ground and kick a ball directly into a goal even though another kid is in the way. Unless a child has an older sibling, expectations on the soccer field are confusing.
And like the soccer field, all things parenting require clear expectations. Part of our job in training our kids is to teach expectations for different areas of life. Shoes don’t go on the table. No running in the street. Put clothes away when you are done with them. No kissing boys until you are 25. Really parenting is a game of handling and communicating expectations. Because not knowing the expectations creates tension and sometimes tears and laughable moments.