It was the Yellow Wasps versus the Highlight Cupcakes. Actually, it was a 36 year old, out-of-shape dad, versus fourteen seven-year-old girls.
I was cramming like a freshman before the big exam. I was pacing. I was nervous. “What am I doing… What am I doing… What the heck was I thinking… Oh dear god.”
No, I wasn’t preparing for brain surgery, or to welcome a new baby into the world, or to take the state bar exam. I was preparing to referee a bunch of seven-year-old girls in soccer. I actually had a little cheat sheet that I studied while we watched the first game of the day. That game was filled with all sorts of drama.
The five-year-old team is the “Sparkly Unicorns” and one kid was protesting saying she’d never seen a sparkly unicorn… Then someone brought up the Pegasus… Then my daughter Andreya said she thought there are Pegasuses on My Little Pony who are sparkly and another kid was contradicting her … A parent jokingly suggested maybe the kids needed a unicorn horn to make the team name REALLY official.
All the while, I walked, and paced, and studied. Then it was my turn. It was the Yellow Wasps versus the Highlight Cupcakes. Actually, it was a 36 year old, out-of-shape dad, versus fourteen seven-year-old girls. They were staring me down. It was high noon and I was beginning to sweat.
You know in the movies, when you see the vulture overhead and then the animal bones sticking out of the desert sand? That’s what I felt like as I faced off against the girls. Cupcakes. Wasps. Referee Dadmissions. I nailed the coin toss and was feeling really confident. The whistle blew.
That first trip down the field went really well; I was gliding like a very large gazelle. The second trip down the field was more of a trot; I was like a Clydesdale horse on a mission. The third trip down the field was more of a slow jaunt; I watched the kids from afar, really closely.
The sun beamed down. The kids kept running. I thought about declaring the game a tie due to the sun. The whistle blew. We got a water break. I was sweating like a prize fighter. But I was hanging in there. Second half. Now I officially dislike those kids. They have all this energy. Stinkers. I glared at a little girl. “Just wait till you’re 36 and huffing down the field,” I thought. Oh sweet revenge. One day it will be mine. The girls kept running. How dare they. Like Hussein Bolt.
They ran and ran and forced me to run. The sun beamed down. My face turned redder. I questioned my will to live. This one little kid would get the ball and take off like she was a winger for Manchester United. Darn kid. And I’d have to run after her. And I ran and ran and ran. The parents yelled things from the sidelines. They cheered for the teams on their comfortable and foldable lawn chairs with sun umbrellas and smoothies to keep cool.
I just didn’t want to boot a call. I prayed for soccer salvation. Before the game I had some very simple goals. Just don’t let me mess up, fall down, throw out my back, or faint, I thought in the days leading up to the game. Just don’t let me embarrass my kid. Now my mind was blank except for a faint chugging sound: “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Now I just wanted to make it out of the game alive. The girls glared at me. I glared at the girls. The girls glared again. I glared some more. And then the whistle blew. It was the Yellow Wasps versus the Highlight Cupcakes and I don’t even remember who won.
Really. I know who won. I did. Because I made it through alive. And even though I huffed and puffed over to the sideline, beat red like a New England lobster, I KNEW this dad was the true hero. They don’t have MVP in little kid soccer, but in my head, I gave myself the trophy. I was awesome. The kids were OK too. But I was great. Till we meet again, little seven-year-old kids. Watch your back. Dadmissions is a ref. And I’m not afraid to blow that whistle.
Read more in the Real Fatherhood series.