New Year’s Day in South Brooklyn–
Out in the park I recline on a bench and read my iBook while my kid rides around on his balance bike. By all account he should be on to the big kid bike by now, but between not being able to find the tire pump and C worrying that Arcee* will feel sad to be abandoned, he’s still on the little red bike. He pushes off w his feet and coasts around the rubber paved race track.
He’s trying to get into a game w two other boys, but the boys are brothers, and no one, not kid not grown person, is as outgoing as my son. He feels a little shut out when I recognize the boys’ mom. We used to do the bus together down 3rd Ave, she taking hers to their school, me taking mine to his. She’s friendly. Turned up nose. The whole family is there, the kids are running around w their dad.
Chatting moms make kid inclusion mandatory and soon all three boys are playing together, sharing some remote control cars the boys got for Christmas. All C has is a Hot Wheels car. This was an unplanned park trip. At the last minute Sunday morning I realized it was Sunday morning and hauled us off to church, which is only a block from the big park, and C demanded we go. Tit for tat, but unprepared. Good thing he’d rode Arcee.
The dad pulls out a ball and they get a soccer game up on the basketball court. We’re a few goals in before I realize these parents are actually playing. C decides I should be the goalie for the grown up team. I stand beneath the net and take selfies, when a kid comes toward me, driving the lane, I think they call it, and suddenly I fear for my dignity. The kid is 7, and he’s totally going for it.
I put my phone in my pocket and prepare to react. I block the shot! I’m pleased w myself, but he gets it back quick and takes another. I am not able to defend the goal. The mom looks at me all disappointed. I can’t face the husband. It’s clear he’s not ready for the thing that happens bw fathers and sons where for the first time ever the son beats the father at something and the primacy of masculinity changes hands.
“We scored on you, Mommy!” My son says gleefully, astride his balance bike. I laugh big. Yeah, that’s my kid, the one who plays soccer while riding a bike.
My son’s dad is all into sports, and C is not so much. I think if you’d asked Dave, before Mr Child was born, how he’d feel if his son was not all into sports, he may have said he’d be disappointed. But as it turns out, he’s got so much love and respect for his son that the only thing that matters to him is that C is kind, considerate, and making use of his own gifts. It’s a whole thing to adjust to your kid. There is no Platonic ideal against which we ought measure our son. He is no table. Instead there is giving the room and support so that when he jumps, he knows he will always come down on solid ground.
*his balance bike, named for the only motorcycle Transformer character, also the only girl character