I wish I had pictures to go along with this blog post. But, unfortunately, I don't. So, my attempts at storytelling will have to suffice.
Ava had her first soccer "game" last night. Really, it was just her team split in two playing against each other. However, to the kids it was a real game with throw ins and kick offs and goalies and everything. Up until this point, these kids had never actually played with one another since they're paired up with a parent at practice. Do you see where I'm going with this? So, there they were, 16 little soccer players chasing after the ball like a swarm of bees after the kid who just stole their honey. I cheered to Ava from the sidelines, "Go get the ball." So she did. She attacked the ball, stopped it under her foot, with all the other children surrounding her and in her firmest voice, arms out to her sides she announced, "Back away kids. I have the ball. This is my ball." And there she stood for a good 20 seconds, not going anywhere, just protecting the ball with her foot. Her coach told her we had to share to which she replied, "They can go get their own balls." As the other parents chuckled, her coach looked desperately at me so I ran onto the field and whispered into her ear that the ball was for everyone to play with. Feeling a little embarrassed, I think, by all the laughter she burst into tears and ran off the field. It hadn't occurred to me that she wouldn't realize that soccer was a team sport. We have gone to watch local high school games, but she had never had to share the ball herself. So, after a little pep talk I told her to run back on the field and kick the ball as hard as she could. Within a minute she was back on my lap tears running down her face. "That boy pushed me." Another thing that hadn't occurred to me. Ava is hyper-sensitive, and there's nothing wrong with that. In any other circumstance it wouldn't be okay for a boy to push her (really, the little boy just bumped into her because, let's face it, there wasn't a whole lot of coordination out on that field), but on the soccer field it happens. So, I explained to her that with so many kids people were bound to get bumped and push, but just to be tough and focus on kicking the ball. So, she wiped her eyes, shook it off and reluctantly ran back onto the field. Her coach, recognizing she just needed to have some contact with the ball let her kick the next goal kick. And that was that. She kicked it as hard as she could, I cheered, she smiled he widest smile... and then ran off the field. This time though, she was so excited that she wanted to give me a hug. "Okay Mom, I gotta go play more soccer." So, she bounced back on to the field. I was so proud of her, she ran with the boys, chased the ball and got some great kicks in. For awhile she kept running off the field to hug me. But, after a few times she realized it was more fun on the field and there she stayed except for the occasional water break. I cheered as loud as I could for her (Andy, unfortunately, was at school) and smiled just as big as she did each time she kicked the ball or threw it in.
At the end, she made friends with a little girl on her team named Sadie. Both were pretty worn out and decided rather than running up and down the field chasing after a ball like the rest of the suckers, they'd stand in the middle of the field and chat. It was hilarious! The looked like a couple of teenagers laughing and making large animated gestures. When their coach told them to move (as in run after the ball) they simply moved to the side of the field out of the action, and continued their conversation.
As we left the field Ava told me it was her favorite day at soccer. I asked her what she liked best and she told me that she was proud because she kept trying, even after she got pushed. That's my girl.