The lovely inauthenticity of youthful memories

The kids' school offers some wonderful extracurricular activities; each day there are several options from which the kids can choose and then register, things like drama, rollerblading, Arabic, science. They run for just an hour after dismissal, and each term I let the boys pick one or two from those that strike their fancies. Jack opted for NASA science and chess last time around while Ol took a children's theater class. I heard rave reviews after every session and immediately shared the new choices when they were published last month. Somewhat to my surprise, both boys chose Spanish club (I'm so happy about this!), in part because they wanted to do something together (I'm so happy about this too!) and also they're both really engaged in the language this year. Then they each chose theater which runs on the same day but is divided by age such that they wouldn't be together. Ultimately, Jack's theater class was canceled because of low enrollment. In an attempt to assuage his disappointment, I said, "Buddy, I am happy to either pick you up early or to sign you up for the other option that day which is soccer."

Jack has never expressed the remotest interest in soccer. In fact, when he was almost three and Oliver was a newborn, I signed Jack up for tot soccer in order to get us all outside. He did not seem excited, but I thought he might enjoy kicking a ball with friends. My precious boy instead loitered, each week, in the field's back 40, identifying weeds and small flowers which he would repeatedly pick and bring to me on the sidelines. I remember clearly his glee one day: "Mom, Mom, it's hairy bittercress!!!" a weed which was, at that point, Tom's nemesis because it spread like wildfire and thus impeded his grass seed's maturation. If J's foot ever made contact with the soccer ball, I don't remember it and it must have been accidental.

Anyway, I suspected he'd say no about soccer this time around so I simply said, "The choice is yours; anything is fine with me! The only thought I wanted to share is that sometimes it's just really nice to know the basics of common games. Say you and a bunch of your friends were at the park together and someone started a pick-up game of soccer. If you knew how to play, you'd probably be glad. I can remember feeling happy to know how to play various games."

And to my surprise, he immediately said, "Sure, Mom, why not. I'll try soccer."

I always find little surprises like this marvelous. They remind me that even though I know my boys better than perhaps anyone else (knows them), they are dynamic beings whose interests and ideas are developing in tandem with, though often in less obvious or visual ways, their physical growth and capabilities. I have always thought of Jack as my son who would never be an athlete, and in all likelihood, sports will never be his main passion or direction in life. And that's OK. But it's also so worthwhile to remember and keep present that our little ones change, that what we used to attribute to, expect from and know about them may not be true next week or next year or ever again.

We, as parents, cannot grow complacent or assumptive regarding our child(ren)'s preferences; not only does that hold the possibility of pigeon-holing our kids inaccurately -ascribing to them interests or traits that are no longer correct- but it also runs the risk of keeping them from discovering external interests and elements of their own inner selves.

I contacted the afterschool coordinator who moved J into soccer, and yesterday I went to pick-up a bit early to see if I could catch a glimpse of him. There was my Jack, racing down the field happily. The group is co-ed which thrills me (second graders really tend to divide by gender unless you force it), and I saw him dribbling with a girl with whom he used to play detective; he gave her a Sherlock hat, pipe and magnifying glass three years ago for her birthday, one of the last co-ed parties he attended. As he jogged off the field, he gave me a high five and said, "That was awesome."

In the car on the way home, Oliver told us how "awesome" drama was, and Jack told him how "awesome" soccer was. He then said, "You know, I've always loved soccer."

People, please. I took that opportunity to lovingly relay the first and only experience Jack had with soccer, the tot class five years ago. He grinned and shrugged and said, "Well, I love it now." And I smiled and thought about how we change and perhaps he did love it that first time around, in the sense of what soccer was to him then: time outside in a field of flowers and weeds, time to pursue what was then one of his interests, time to indulge a simple pleasure. The loveliness of inauthentic memories* can still lead us to discover, or rediscover, something new to enjoy.

Food for thought on this beautiful spring day!

*Please rest assured that I am not saying all youthful memories are inauthentic, but some are and those are the ones I'm writing about here.