Hilarious is the only way to describe how my Saturday mornings have been of late.
Three weeks ago, my oldest son, Beckett, began his first organized ‚Äúsporting‚ÄĚ activity, Little Kickers, and it‚Äôs been quite enjoyable for the entire family.
By its name, the obvious deduction is it‚Äôs a soccer program. However, as those parents whose kids have participated already know well, it has little to do with soccer. Actually, what I have found is the soccer balls are simply there for the parents to kick around while their kids run like maniacs for an hour.
In the rare instance that my son actually kicks a ball, accidentally or not, I act like it‚Äôs the greatest feat ever. During last Saturday‚Äôs session, I think he successfully connected with a ball three times and I‚Äôm not sure either was intentional. It‚Äôs more like a necessity to move the ball out of his way so he can easily get from point to another.
When a ball does capture his attention, Beckett seems to prefer to pick it up, hold it, lick it, maybe kiss it, say ‚Äėball‚Äô and then it toss it aside like an empty sippie cup.
Rather than get too involved with the balls, he favors some friendly taps on the head of a fellow participant, like he does his 12-week-old brother or his dogs. Sometimes, he even likes to stick his pointer finger in a fellow participant‚Äôs ear, nose or eye before laughing and running off in another direction haphazardly. To that, of course, I apologize, while fighting off my immature side‚Äôs instinct to laugh along with him. I realize I need to let him know that‚Äôs not okay, but the issue is I need to catch up to him first. That‚Äôs not always an easy feat.
Although there‚Äôs no soccer being taught, and that‚Äôs wise because it would be a waste of time, the program is great for kids my son‚Äôs age. There are six kids in his time slot and age group (18 to 24 months).
The thing I most enjoy is how different each kid seems to be. Since Beckett tends to the rambunctious side more often than not, I am constantly amazed at how some kids are incredibly mellow. There was one boy that simply sat wide-eyed and observed most of the time. Even when he did run around and get excited, he was careful not to get too far away from his parents. I was in awe because on the opposite extreme is Beckett, who runs around the place and is constantly trying to climb the divider to join in with the bigger kids on the adjacent field.
Here‚Äôs some other highlights of this new adventure:
— One of my favorite memories came on the first day of the program. Dispersed throughout the field are these little circular markers where the kids are supposed to sit while the instructor talks. After spotting them, Beckett immediately ran over, pushing aside the soccer balls on his way, and began stacking them one by one. Since nobody else was around, I just let him go at it. A minute later, all 10 were stacked and he gave himself a standing ovation. He loves stacking blocks and cups and will try to stack just about anything. He even tried to stack a few soccer balls atop each other on the first day. He quickly learned that was not possible, but for some reason still tries each session.
— As to be expected, minor injuries are inevitable with a group of toddlers playing. Last Saturday, while the parents held up a parachute so the kids could run underneath, Beckett came running over to me crying. I did not immediately know what had happened and encouraged him to continue running around and having fun. He was having none of it so I picked him up to settle him down. A grandmother quickly informed me that he had bumped heads with another boy, pointing to her grandson who was sitting in the middle of the field sporting a nickel-sized bruise on his forehead. The funny thing was Beckett had no visible injuries and was wailing, while the other boy was just sitting down rubbing his forehead but not crying. Later, I apologized to his parents and I wondered if he had seen the collision. The dad proudly reported that he had the head bump on tape and offered to show it to me. I took his word for it.
— In the first session, Beckett became familiar with ‚Äúgreen light-red light‚ÄĚ. It was a nightmare at first with kids running randomly all over the place, while the parents tried to corral and coax them into staying near them. Fortunately, everyone is improving a little bit and it‚Äôs not quite as hectic, but there are still a few independent souls unwilling to stop when the ‚Äúred light‚ÄĚ is called. I find Beckett, whose attention span can be difficult to contain, in that lot often, but he‚Äôs showing signs of improvement.
— Another aspect of the program calls for the kids to jump in place for a while. Most of the kids have not mastered that yet. In Beckett‚Äôs case, for some reason, he equates marching to jumping. It seems to be the lazy man‚Äôs way to jump. Either way, we are working on it. In the meantime, I simply pick him up off the ground a couple inches and put him back down to try and teach him. The only problem with that is he laughs hysterically and really enjoys it. I may have to rethink that approach because he thinks that‚Äôs a fun game in and of itself.
Overall, the primary ambitions of the Little Kickers program seems to be to teach the kids how to listen, allow them socialize with others their age and to tire them out. All that sounds good, and I particularly love the burning off energy part.
Last week, on the way home, Beckett fell asleep in the car. Apparently, it did the trick. As most parents know well, an exhausted kid can be a wonderful thing.