Yesterday was the last game of Beanie’s maiden soccer season. I don’t know how much she’s actually learned about playing the game, but I do know she’s had a stellar time running around the big field with a dozen balls, twenty-some little kids her age, a half-dozen or so teenaged girls, and the boundlessly encouraging Coach Jackie. As soon as she had wolfed down her breakfast, she sped off to her room to change into her royal blue shirt, white soccer shorts, tie-dyed socks, and her pink shinguards over her socks but under her Hello Kitty sneakers — then proceeded to carom around the house, knocking into things and shrieking randomly. Her excitement was hilarious, if a little nerve-wracking. Poor old Bo fled downstairs and curled up against the washing machine.
Since Beanie was the first kid on the field, Coach Jackie let her pick her own “coach” for the practice and the game. It was hardly surprising that the smallest player picked the tallest teenager to be her coach, to a cascade of giggles from her adolescent compatriots. While coaching Beanie is definitely the most physically demanding job on the field, as she has predilections for sprinting off towards the woods if she sees butterflies and climbing the net anytime she finds herself within arms’ reach of a goal, I’m told that the benefit of abundant Beanie hugs and kisses for the person who fetches her back are a good offset.
While Beanie was cavorting on the soccer pitch with the rest of the boisterous midget mob, Mr. Man was exploring the perimeter of the field, Baby Guy was cheerfully disassembling my diaper bag, and Bugaboo was pouting because big sisters of players don’t get medals or trophies on the last day of soccer season. I tried to engage her with an extra soccer ball, to no avail; instead, she informed me that she needed to find a potty.
I’ve missed a lot of soccer practice this season taking Bugaboo to find the potty, which is inside the school building, about 200 yards from the soccer field. At roughly yard 199, Bugaboo informed me that she did not actually need to use said potty, but had merely wanted to go for a walk with me, and that she was tired of everyone playing attention to Beanie, Mr. Man, and Baby Guy.
I took a deep breath. Then I took another one.
As we headed back to the soccer field, our oldest daughter and I had a bit of a chat. I reminded her that, last spring, Beanie had faithfully stood on the sidelines for each of her big sister’s games, and no one had cheered louder. I also reminded her that when she needs help with her schoolwork, I gently ask her siblings to wait while she gets the assistance she’s requested, that she is the only one allowed to use the shower unassisted, the only one who has a stash of books she doesn’t have to share with anyone, was the first to go roller skating, the first to have a drawing grace the wall of our upstairs hallway — it was a pretty lengthy litany of special attentions paid to our first-born child. Then I explained, as gently as I could, because this is a very, very big flashpoint in our extended family, that being born first does not cause the world to revolve around a given child, that we love all our children, and that while each one of them will have moments when she or he is the center of all our attention, that centering in no way diminishes our love for the rest of them. I also reminded that part of being part of both our family and the Lord’s family is that we share in each other’s joys and sorrows, choosing a share in our collective happiness instead of choosing to sit, sour-faced, on the sidelines.
I’m not sure how much of it penetrated Bugaboo’s cranium, and I’ll wager the speech will be repeated, perhaps with different verbiage, several thousand times over whatever years the Lord sees fit to grant me.
After a brief stop to pick up a couple of lunch necessities, we headed home to share a meal, with two tired and hungry little boys singing a wordless duet about their troubles in the middle of the van. As I was flinging plates and food towards each child, the phone rang, with a call that, while it was not unexpected, was no less sad. My Aunt, of whom I wrote in a previous post, had passed away while our branch of the family tree was on the soccer field. I stumblingly asked my cousin if there was anything he and my uncle needed, kicked myself mentally for stumbling, and told him I love him. If you have the time and the inclination, please pray for him and my uncle.
Today’s prayer: Lord, please have mercy on Your child, Geraldine, and welcome her to a joyful reunion with the family who preceded her into Your Kingdom. Please comfort her husband and her son, and all of us who mourn her passage from this world. Please soften the hearts of those who refuse to mourn, and fill them with Your loving grace.
Lord, thank You for the four blessings You have given us to raise. Please help us teach them that while we are all part of a greater family in You, their first and best friends are the siblings with which You blessed them. Please grant them hearts that are humble and forgiving towards all people, but most especially towards each other — and please, Lord, grant my husband and I the grace to show them, daily, what mercy, humility, and love look like in action. Keep us mindful that no one of us is greater than any other in Your sight, and that to believe otherwise is to make the grounds of our souls fertile land for the seeds of envy, wrath, and pride, all of which serve to separate us from each other and from You.