Dad Talk: Take 2

My 10yo son’s last game of the soccer season was Saturday, and he scored two goals. Once the game was over, and his teammates and coaches were done patting him on the back, I took him out for ice cream at McDonald’s.

“I’m going to buy you an ice cream cone, but it’s under one condition,” I said. “You have to listen to everything I say and take my advice.”

He agreed.

I did something similar a few weeks earlier after his coach pulled me aside to tell me Tristan had a breakdown during practice and had to sit out for a bit.

As we ate our cones, I thought of the advice I gave him last time we were there, when he told me he wanted to quit soccer: “It’s not about being the best right there and then,” I said. “It’s about growth. It’s about showing up and trying, really trying. It’s about gaining skills. Your whole life will be like this: sports, school, work, family. It’s all about showing up and trying. Sometimes I feel like I’m not getting any better at this whole dad thing. But I keep showing up and trying. Life is like that.”

He chomped away, sweaty and muddy and still in his green soccer uniform as I spoke. He was smiling, riding the high of scoring two goals, and I really wanted to use that to teach him a lesson.

“I’m not proud of you for scoring those two goals,” I said.

He stopped eating for a moment and gave me a straight-lipped look of concern.

“Why not?” He asked.

“Because I’m proud of you for showing up each day and trying. That’s what really makes me proud. If you never scored a goal, but kept showing up and trying, really trying, like you have been, I’d still be proud of you. That’s the way my love works. I’m not all that interested in you being the best on your team, or scoring the most goals, or whatever. I’m interested in you being a determined kid who tries really hard. If you live your life like that, whether you score goals or not, you are going to come out ahead. I promise.”

I couldn’t tell if he believed me or not. It’s hard to tell with a little boy, but what I do know is that when I was a little boy, it was all about winning. It was about who was the best, and who scored the most goals, and if you weren’t a winner, you were a loser. I hated that, and I don’t want that mindset for my son.

He was crunching on the waffle part of his cone now. He didn’t say anything to me in that moment, but I could see gears turning behind his eyes. Eventually he nodded. Then he asked for another ice cream cone.

“Next season,” I said. “As long as you keep trying.”

He rolled his eyes.

I rubbed his brown hair.

We walked out to the car. Before we got in, he hugged me around waist and said, “Thanks, Dad.”

I had a feeling he was thanking me for more than just the ice cream.

“Anytime, dude,” I said. “Anytime.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 9.14.59 PM

Recent Posts