As soon as Miguel learned to crawl, he would zip around the house pushing a soccer ball in front of him. I captured it on video but it's on analog and I haven't converted it yet so you'll have to take my word for it when I say he is adorable and amazing. When he turned five, he started playing soccer in the park league where the emphasis was on fundamental skills and sportsmanship. Miguel has never had an issue in the area of skill but sportsmanship? Yah, you betcha. Miguel is one of the most competitive people I've met in my entire life. This is the kid that made choir into a competitive sport. Who could learn the songs the fastest? Who knew the lyrics with the greatest accuracy? Who could sing the loudest? I'll spare you the suspense - Miguel, Miguel and Miguel. I will be completely honest with you...I have struggled with this aspect of his personality. See, I'm not big on winners and losers. I want everyone to be treated equally, regardless of their abilities, and I want everyone to feel honored. I'm all peace and love. This year, Miguel decided that he wanted to join a more competitive soccer league. Remember the angst about tryouts? Well, that is long gone. He loves his new team and coach and says that this league is "100% more challenging than park soccer" which is, apparently, a very good thing. I took him to practice this week and it was hard core. There were footwork drills and passing drills and even push-ups. The coach pitted them against each other in drills and had the audacity to point out who was winning! I wanted to yell, "But that doesn't matter boys! Just do your best! It's all good!" The boys were intense and called each other out for missteps or sluggishness. Don't get me wrong, the coach was in control of practice and he seems like a nice guy. It's just so not lesbian feminist soccer. Shocking, I know.
After a particularly tough drill, Miguel came over to get a drink of water and had a tiny little smile on his face, the kind that tells you there is more underneath bursting to get out. I asked him what was up and he whispered, "Mom...the best player on the team just told me that he thinks I'm one of the best players on the team." I asked him to point the kid out to me, asked what made him the best and asked how it made him feel. He simply beamed and ran back to join his team. I watched this kid who Miguel believes is the "best" for the rest of practice and he was good but not markedly better than the rest. My heart broke a little because being "good" matters so much, because some goofball boy's opinion matters so much, because this competitive boy business is not my world and so much of this Miguel is going to have to negotiate on his own.
I know...this is another one of those moments of letting go. We are finally allowing him to embrace his competitiveness. It's just hard because we have handled him so gingerly for all of these years and, sometimes, I'm just not ready to release him into the wilds of boy culture. The world can be a harsh place and I hope that he can handle it and, if he can't, I hope he knows that we're here...sitting on the sidelines...doing our best to love him unconditionally.