Ryan had lots of difficulty going to sleep Thursday night (thankfully the first such episode since this post) but rather than write about that I wanted to turn back the clock a few days to Sunday — a day full of simple joys in our house.
Riley is in her second season of travel soccer, which has presented some challenges. Ryan hates soccer. He hates having to go to the games. He hates having to even drop her off at practice. He doesn’t usually keep these thoughts to himself. There’s lots of “soccer is stupid!” and “soccer sucks!” … and lots of increasingly frustrated requests from us to cut it out.
It’s another of the many situations where we have to decide how far to push. Do we let him get his way, knowing that it might make him even more resistant the next time? Or do we force him to go, and risk a difficult scene, and possible embarrassment for Riley?
We’ve decided to split the difference. Ryan attends all the home games, but doesn’t have to go to the road ones. Veronica usually ends up taking her while he and I stay home and play or watch hockey.
Sunday was the first home game of the spring season. We braced ourselves for a struggle with Ryan, but it never materialized. He went willingly, opting to bring along a textbook to study for a school test the next day. On a whim, I suggested that we bring a football to throw around. I always see other dads tossing a football with their sons at the games and I’m always jealous.
Hockey is clearly the top sport in our house, but I’m also a huge football fan. I’ve tried to spark an interest in the sport in both kids, but have only found success with Riley. Not so with Ryan — other than on one glorious occasion — who insists that he ONLY loves hockey.
To my surprise, Ryan agreed to bring the football. This was not an accident. Ryan has a new friend, and had recently been invited to his house to play after school. His friend loves football, and Ryan insisted that he would play whatever his friend wanted to do when they were at his house. His perseveration on hockey has scuttled other play dates, so this was real progress.
He told me he wanted to practice at football so he could play with his friend, so I tossed the ball in the back of the car with the soccer chairs.
Ryan didn’t complain at all going to the game. I spent the first half keeping one eye on the game while helping Ryan study. When we finished reviewing the material, I asked him if he wanted to throw the football. He surprised me again by saying yes. We only tossed the ball around for a few minutes, but they were a glorious few minutes. And he both threw and caught the ball better than I expected.
In the second half, he opted to go exploring around the field allowing us to focus on Riley. Ryan asked how much longer a few times, but was far less anxious about leaving than is typical. The game ended, we quickly packed up and headed home.
In the car, another surprise. Riley was upset about having let up a few goals when she was in net. Ryan was genuinely sympathetic and tried to lift her spirits. When we got home, I had promised Ryan we could watch the afternoon NHL game that I had DVRd.
Riley wanted to go biking, but in our super-hilly neighborhood, this requires adult supervision. Because Veronica had some errands to run, I would be unable to take her. Riley learned to ride her bike last summer and probably could have at least a year or two earlier. The truth is, I didn’t want to teach her because Ryan, two years older, still can’t ride a bike. Well, I’m sure he could ride a bike, but he has no interest in it. The child can ice skate, so I’m sure he could figure out a two-wheeler, but he has no motivation to do so. I finally ran out of excuses with Riley last summer and she picked it up in about 15 minutes. Since then, she often wants to go bicycling.
I apologized but promised to let her go with a friend if the friend’s parents could watch them. The friend was going to the movies, so Riley was out of luck. She retreated to her room, mildly disappointed, while Ryan and I sat down to watch the game.
Watching a game from start to finish with Ryan is a rare treat. We don’t often get to because he has to go to bed on weekday nights and weekends are so packed with activities. So when we can carve out three hours to spend together watching a game, I try to enjoy every minute of it. This game was no exception and we had a blast watching the Flyers beat the Penguins with less than a second to go in overtime.
When the game ended, I had planned to switch to the NCAA tournament and spend the rest of a lazy Sunday on the couch, maybe have a beer or two. But as soon as it did, Riley asked again about bike riding. I didn’t feel like it, but I looked out the window, saw a beautiful spring afternoon, looked down at my daughter and saw her pleading eyes, and changed my mind. Instead of watching her ride, I’d get out my own bike and join her.
We usually pile the bikes into the car and drive some place flat, we’d just ride right from the house, carefully gliding down the big hill at the start. We quickly found our way to some quiet back streets and spent the next 90 minutes turning laps around the neighborhood and generally having a wonderful time. With dusk approaching, we finally headed back to the house.
We topped the day off with a family dinner in front of various hockey and basketball games on the TV.
It wasn’t a perfect day, but it was pretty darn close. We’d done some things as a family, and others separately. But that’s what works for us. For me, I got to spend quality one-on-one time with each of my children doing something each of them loves. What could be better than that?