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  • There’s No Hugging In Soccer

    February 7, 2008

    Last night was soccer practice. The bleachers provide a sort of anonymous perspective from which to watch Sean interact with other children, almost like a two-way mirror.  It ‘s fascinating and at the same time a little uncomfortable to see him off on his own, interacting with the world separate and apart from me. 

    As I sit in the stands, part of me is engaged in a conversation with my friend Jennifer, but another part of me is watching Sean negotiate a soccer ball and the complex social network of 4-year-olds.

    I observe that he is a rule follower. He listens to the coach, but sometimes, because he is quiet, he is misunderstood or simply overlooked. He prefers to stand back, to observe, always taking the last spot in line. I do not judge these traits to be good or bad, beneficial or detrimental, they just are.

    At one point in the game, I see him look up to the stands. He is searching for my face. He is not crying, but his face is twisted in a valiant effort to hold back tears. I did not see what happened. He starts walking quickly to the sidelines and then makes his way up the stands to where I am sitting.

    When his eyes meet mine, the safety latch releases and tears roll down his face.

    “What’s the matter?” I ask, “What happened?”

    “Hoo, Hoo, Hooper (sob) Hooper (sob) Hooper bumped my HAY-UD!” (SOB)

    I look at his head, to where he is pointing. There is a red spot. Where he has been furiously rubbing it.

    “Well, I’m sure it was an accident. That kind of thing sometimes happens in sports,” I say. “I think you’re going to be okay.”

    He works up a few more sobs and buries his face into my shirt. I can feel his wet breath and tears on my neck. At this moment I want to ask Hooper to bump into Sean again next week.

    “You better get back out there or you’re going to miss all the fun,” I encourage.

    He shakes his head and burrows deeper into me.

    “What if I go with you? What if I sit on the sidelines, would you want to go then?”

    “Okay,” he agrees. He grabs my hand and we walk to the field together.

    After the game is over he runs over to the sidelines to show me the stamps the coach has put on his hands and his tummy.

    “That’s fantastic! You are awesome!” I enthuse.

    “Come here and give me a hug!”

    I hold my arms out expectantly.

    He steps back a half step and shakes his head no, ever so slightly. He looks around nervously.

    He is embarrassed.

    “Not now,” he says.

    “Okay,” I say and I leave it at that.

    Now it’s my turn to hold back tears. This day has come as I knew it would, I just didn’t think it would come so soon. And I certainly didn’t think it would come on the same day when I was wearing a blouse stained with his snot and tears.


    1. jenni says:

      Ah, the fickleness of four!

      I’m hoping you got some extra cuddles later…

      February 7th, 2008 at 12:54 am

    2. Becca says:

      I bet you get an extra kiss and an “I wuvs you” tonight before someone goes to sleep. Lucky Lady…

      February 7th, 2008 at 1:00 am

    3. jen elslager says:

      Oh, wow. My ‘safety latch’ just released.

      February 7th, 2008 at 1:33 am

    4. Sheila at Dodging Raindrops says:

      Oh, no! Turning down a hug! I dread that day. Well, I guess my son does that occasionally but only when he’s grumpy.

      February 7th, 2008 at 1:58 am

    5. Diane J. says:

      He’ll have enough relapses along the way to just break even for the times he turns you down. Odd how it works out that way….

      February 7th, 2008 at 2:20 am

    6. Jan says:

      Today when I picked my 7 year old up from school, I felt his hand slip into mine but then felt it pull away quickly- he had forgotten where he was. I always say nothing and just accept it as him growing up (in a good way) But my heart does break a little each time it happens.

      February 7th, 2008 at 2:40 am

    7. Betty G. says:

      Growing up is hard to do — for kids — and for their Moms observing. You have a lot more ahead. Hold on!

      Betty in Oklahoma
      (Grandmother of 12)

      February 7th, 2008 at 3:19 am

    8. ewe_are_here says:

      The switch to hugs on their terms only seems to start so young. I’m dreading it.

      February 7th, 2008 at 4:55 am

    9. Fiddledeedee (It Coulda Been Worse) says:

      Oh mama, your baby is growing up. Sob.

      And with little boys, it comes much sooner than we want it to. I’ll take a blouse filled with tears and boogers any day of the week.

      Excellent post.

      February 7th, 2008 at 5:57 am

    10. Beth_C says:

      Take comfort in knowing that he will always be your little boy and that you will still get plenty of hugs and kisses at home. I’m sure that doesn’t take the hurt away right now though.

      As always, beautiful post.

      February 7th, 2008 at 7:25 am

    11. Heidi says:

      I admit I take notes on your parenting skills. Whereas I would have been the mom to say, “You’re fine. You’re a tough guy. Get back out there, sport,” you took the right approach. Offering comfort while refusing to blame Hooper, and encouraging him to continue rather than cajoling.

      I read you because you write beautifully, but also because I see the Holy Spirit at work in your parenting. You might be an Antique Mommy, but your “antiqueness” has no doubt made you a much wiser, better mother.

      February 7th, 2008 at 7:28 am

    12. Michelle says:

      My 12 yr old son will teeter on the brink of wanting me close and begging that I would just get away!! One minute he will be next to me with his head on my shoulder, the next he will want nothing to do with me. You gotta love them boys!!

      February 7th, 2008 at 8:35 am

    13. Carola says:


      February 7th, 2008 at 9:05 am

    14. beverlydru says:

      I read your post about the snuggle time in your son’s tiny bed and I was hooked on your blog. I relive such sweet memories as you share your journey with Sean. Up until about the age of 5, our son’s favorite place was my lap. He was shy in groups. I recall his kindergarten teacher quietly pulling me aside to actually celebrate the first time he got called out for horsing around. I secretly loved it, having him cling to me as his place of safety and comfort. My “little boy” is 6’5″ now. Sigh.

      February 7th, 2008 at 9:08 am

    15. Jeana says:

      Ah, kids. They’re a constant study in contradictions.

      February 7th, 2008 at 9:12 am

    16. Yvonne says:

      Ok, now that story brought a sobby start to my day….so sweet

      February 7th, 2008 at 9:30 am

    17. CircusKelli says:

      Oooohhh…. Well written. *sniff*

      February 7th, 2008 at 10:20 am

    18. Doug says:

      I absolutely love your stories. They are a constant reminder of how precious children are. Mine are teenagers now and they do both wonderful and aggravating things which is to be expected.

      I’ve always said being a parent is the most frustrating and the most rewarding thing in life (all at the same time).

      February 7th, 2008 at 10:38 am

    19. Katherine says:

      I cannot believe that I will be the first to say – you take that child right out of soccer! Four is far, FAR too early to skip a hug with mom.

      February 7th, 2008 at 10:41 am

    20. bee says:

      Poor Antique Mommy! That’s when you take him directly to the car and take a hug. By force! 🙂

      February 7th, 2008 at 11:25 am

    21. imagine community says:


      February 7th, 2008 at 11:41 am

    22. Pat says:

      I cry almost every time! It goes quickly; hug as often as possible! You have wonderful insight. A very wise mom.

      February 7th, 2008 at 11:52 am

    23. Shalee says:

      You’ve just made me cry with joy that my eight-year-old still kisses me whenever he feels like it (even in front of his friends.) I know it won’t be long, but I see that I’ve been given a gift that I often take for granted.

      February 7th, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    24. Expatmum says:

      Aah – bless him! I’d say you have about three more years of being favorite cuddler then the boys start hero-worshipping dad. Fortunately most of them still like their mothers enough to kiss and cuddle when no-one’s looking.

      February 7th, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    25. Karen @ Simply A Musing Blog says:

      Oh that they would cleave and not leave! Beautiful post and I agree with DeeDee – I’d take tears and snot over this whole growing up business any day. 🙂 This is a poignant reminder for me to enjoy every hug, kiss, tear and snotty nose I encounter from my son…thank you.

      February 7th, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    26. Kris says:

      Going through all of these kinds of moments with my son, too. Each milestone of his feels like one for me, too.

      February 7th, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    27. Kelly @ Love Well says:

      I’m just a fond observer of Sean via the Internet, and I’m not ready for that.

      Here’s hoping it was just a fluke, and he’ll readily accept hugs the next time.

      February 7th, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    28. Robbin says:

      I am SO not ready for it. Just this morning, I decided that Harry was at the most perfect age in the universe, and that I was freezing him right there forever.

      Don’t tell me I can’t.

      February 7th, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    29. jean says:

      Oh come here, I’ll give you a hug. You know that it’s a good sign that he didn’t need that second hug. It means your doing a great job and helping him become independent. At least that’s what my mother told me. And part of me believes her, the other part is still crying.

      February 7th, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    30. fern says:

      Today my independent, knows everything, 18 yr old son e-mailed me with a problem (and many possible solutions) and said “what should i do”

      Hugs come in many forms.

      February 7th, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    31. Sally says:

      It’s hard for a Mom, isn’t it???

      February 7th, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    32. cj says:

      keep on writing . . . you do it so beautifully!

      February 7th, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    33. Kara Messner says:

      Wow! Now I want to cry! Hold on to those moments

      February 7th, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    34. Mary says:

      Ahh…those boys…they do a good job of acting in front of their friends. They do really still need/want/desire your presence in their lives. I am really lucky. When mine was around 16 and a half, he started hugging me in public (at the High School football games!) again. It became cool with his group of friends to have parents that were okay to be around and to admit that they get along with their parents! The pull away for a period of time….but they do come back to you! Are you familiar with the book “Love you forever”?

      February 7th, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    35. Jeana says:

      You know, the bad thing about your blog is that I long ago ran out of new and creative ways to tell you what a beautiful and gifted writer you are. So most days I don’t say anything, which makes it seem like I’m not affected which could not be further from the truth, which is that you wow me every single day.

      February 7th, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    36. Nicki says:

      Don’t you want to bottle him up and keep him just how he is? This reminds me to use my video camera more. Thanks.

      February 8th, 2008 at 4:52 am

    37. Carrie says:

      Awwww…you made me cry! I’m definitely going to be holding my 2-month old son just a little closer today! 🙂

      February 8th, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    38. Jodie says:

      OH! This story – so beautifully written – it squeezes my heart though. I love when my kids’ tiny hands reach up and slip into mine, and when they volunteer hugs. I want them to stay that affectionate forever.
      It made my heart hurt for you when I read this.
      And it makes me want to go and hug all of mine! 🙂

      February 9th, 2008 at 12:14 am

    39. mama speak says:

      It breaks my heart that as mom’s when we do our job best we lose the best part. Not they necessarily truely ever leave or stop hugging us. But if we do our job really, really well they need us less & less every day. Of course, the flip side to that is that if we do it really, really well they still want us a little more every day.

      That’s what I’m going to keep telling myself.

      February 9th, 2008 at 4:26 am

    40. Cheryl says:

      He will come back around to wanting to hug you…even in front of his friends…I promise! My oldest is almost 19. He was home from school last weekend…when it was time for him to go back, he hugged me like he never wanted to let go. It was nice to know that, in the midst of enjoying his freedom, his new friends, parties and his classes, he misses his family.

      February 9th, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    41. Jan says:

      Wow, memories just flooded over me! Used to be that MY hand held my little boy’s hand… now he’s almost 25, and HIS hand holds mine–and it makes my heart melt. Every time.

      Someone else mentioned my favorite book, “Love You Forever.” (I give it to new parents all the time.) I used to read it to my children constantly, singing the refrain “I’ll love you forever, I’ll love you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”

      February 10th, 2008 at 12:52 am

    42. Gretchen says:

      *sigh* I feel you…

      No more “lip kisses” for my son. He’s afraid I might slime him.

      Again, I say, with history of my own snot-stained shirts: Parenting is not for sissies!

      February 10th, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    43. Lessons Learned from a Fall on the Ice « Ann Kroeker says:

      […] then I thought about how Antique Mommy will tell a story about something as simple as her son’s soccer practice and turn it into a poignant tear-jerker about kids growing up and moms letting go. Using a […]

      February 15th, 2008 at 2:20 pm

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