Monday, July 09, 2007


Ben went to soccer camp today. He is a very athletic kid but tends to shriek when the ball his hit his way and does a lot of posing in the uniform before playing, while playing and after playing.

Posing rarely amuses your teammates when you’re twelve.

He came home from buying new cleats last night, along with shin guards and of course, the right length black soccer socks and black soccer shorts. You can’t just wear any old pair of shorts.

Who knew?

He pulled out his cleats and was so proud of the stylish nature. Jake, going to the same soccer camp, bought basic black cleats with a little red swoosh. Not Ben. They look like he’s wearing spats.

I wonder how he’s doing today in a group of kids who haven’t taken two years off playing soccer, like he has. Kids in this area start when they’re three and by the time they are twelve, they have some serious skills. And serious attitudes.

Not bad ones, although a few of the parents certainly need muzzles, but growing into intense competition mode. I saw it on Zachary’s baseball team this past season- it’ll be the last time everyone gets to play regardless of skill level. The kids want to win.

The last time Ben played soccer, I think he tried his hardest to move away from the play. He never waved his hands over his head begging for the ball and always seemed to be slightly behind the line of play.

I tried to find a good creative writing camp for him this summer but I blew it. I offered him two different arts camps he had friends at and he refused both. I want to go to soccer camp, he insisted. He has asked to be signed up for the travel soccer team this fall, too.

When Zachary picks up a baseball, he can play catch for hours- pop flies, grounders, fast balls- and be perfectly content. Jake’s skill on the soccer field is so intense he (as a first grader) can play with 5th graders with ease.

I don’t see a lot of love in Ben’s face when he plays the game. Stress, pressure, trying hard to not be noticed fills his every step.

The shrieking doesn’t help.

I’ve been an athlete my whole life. I cannot imagine not playing a sport of some sort, until the day I die. It may only be scrabble but… something. (Yes, I consider scrabble a sport. My heart gets pumping when I’m losing to my wife who is using yet another word I taught her she doesn’t actually know.) I will because I love it. I love competition, pushing myself hard, and being on a team.

I don’t see it in Ben. I see a sweet kid who’d rather sing along to the top forty on iTunes. A kid who loves the water and jumping in waves without any structure at all except the repetition of the rolling waves. He likes to climb and swing and any sport he can play in flip-flops.

I read an article today ( referring to a book by sociologist C.J. Pacoe. Boys are more often called “fag” when they lack “masculine” affect and are seen as more feminine, not necessarily because they are identified as having same sex desires. Fag, she said, “invoked a very specific gendered slur, directed at other boys. For these boys a fag was a failed, feminine man.” (

I don’t know if Ben is gay. He may simply be a kid who doesn’t fit in the narrow definition of “boy.” Articles like this make my heart break- as he moves through middle school will he be targeted for this kind of taunting? Does he know that already and is that why he’s trying so hard to fit in by playing a sport he has only mild interest in?

How do I help him? What is the right role for a parent to play? When he was four and wanted to wear a Powerpuff girl costume for Halloween, I knew what to say, what to do. He was cute and little. No one was going to call him a fag. People looked at me funny and I smiled.

Blossom kicks butt, I said.

But now he’s going into middle school. Slurs and taunts fill the hallways. Boys have little room to make mistakes.

Ben is a kid who likes to shop for clothes and try to put together new fashion statements. He's treading a very fine line.

I'll sign him up for fall soccer. I'll ooo and ahh over the great choice in cleats.

And be ready first time he comes home and someone has called him a fag.


Blogger Ulla said...

I love your writing about motherhood, it's thoughtful and moving, but you seem to assume that your kids don't read this? Or their classmates? Or their teachers? If you've been so lucky so far, it surely won't last. Something like this will be spun as "your mother is calling you a fag!" in school, I'm afraid.

2:45 AM  

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