She was just standing there, exactly like her coach told her to. Her toes on the six yard line in front of the goalie. Her shoulders looked tense, nobody else would probably even be able to notice, but I could tell they were scrunched up towards her neck just a little bit.
It was just a few minutes earlier that she had told me over and over again that she wanted to go home. In that moment, I didn’t know what to do. On one hand, I didn’t want to be obnoxious and pressure her to play soccer if she absolutely dreaded it, and on the other hand I didn’t want her to just give up on something she felt was a little hard or intimidating that I knew she could do. Also, I couldn’t help but notice that the coach from the other team kept having to send kids to the sidelines to ‘take a break’ just to keep the sides even. She was pleading with me, and her hands wouldn’t stop moving until they made contact with mine. She immediately grasped them and pulled me towards the field. This caused another tear in my heart as I so badly wanted to just go out on the field and stand by her even if I was the only person over three feet tall out there, to support her and make her comfortable. Instead, I explained that daddy was too big and that she had to be brave and go all by herself.
She dutifully obeyed, now her nervous smile matched her darting eyes as the ball came towards her end of the field. The parents around me all started shouting instructions to their little ones who had become engulfed in the massive blob that followed a tiny size three ball across the wet grass. Ella stiffened and just let the storm pass. Her coach had told her to stand right there and she did not want to disappoint. I thought about giving her pointers to explain that when the ball comes near her she should give it a BIG kick…but instead I just gave her a thumbs up, realizing it was taking so much of her energy to just stand there, away from me. I was proud of her. We locked eyes and she saw my approval and gave me the thumbs up back, holding her hand very close to her body almost as close as I will hold this memory in my heart.