Deeper and deeper
Our soccer team was crushed on Saturday: four to nothing. The team doesn’t usually lose, let alone that badly, and the loss dropped us in the standings from second place to fifth.
It was a weird game. My oldest son missed it because he was on a church retreat. My youngest was knocked out in the first five minutes with a jammed thumb. Other players were out as well, so the team only had one substitution. By the end, the kids were both exhausted and dejected.
Later, when the boys and I were in the car, we told my oldest son how the game went.
“Well,” he said with a laugh, “you can’t blame it on me. I wasn’t there.”
“That’s why we can blame it on you,” his little brother said. “We needed you and you weren’t there!”
Oof. Those are pretty hard words to lay on a twelve-year old, but I kept quiet.
The big guy didn’t respond to his brother’s jab, which is a pretty good indicator that it had hit home.
“Do you think it would have been any different if I was there?” he asked me.
Now it was my turn to hesitate. Should I sugar coat things, or just lay it out? I went with the truth.
“Yeah,” I said. “You’re one of our best players.”
He smiled at that, but the expression faded quickly. “Oh.”
“You didn’t have any choice,” I reminded him. “You were on a church retreat.”
“I didn’t have to go on the retreat,” he said. “It was up to me.”
I shrugged. “It was just a game.”
He looked out the window.
I tried to think of something to say, but came up dry as I realized my “just a game” comment had missed the entire point. He wasn’t upset about the game. He was upset about letting his friends down.
That was something that I couldn’t make better.