Em grew out of her 'crying at the drop of a hat' phase later than a lot of the other girls I know, but grow out of it she did.
Except when it comes to soccer.
She came home from soccer practice on Wednesday crying. She cried at the beginning of the fourth quarter of today's game. She cried at the end of the game at well.
None of these were for the reasons you might think.
Wednesday's crying was because a Major League Soccer player had come as part of an AYSO 'perk' to coach her team. But he was hard on the girls, yelling at them a lot. Still, that wasn't what made Em cry. "I like the drills Coach D usually does," she said as the tears spilled over when I asked her what was wrong. "All this guy did was basic passing. I didn't feel like I got a good workout tonight."
The crying at the beginning of the fourth quarter today was because Coach D decided to put her in goal at the last minute, since the team was ahead 5-0, and he wanted to give the 'regular' goalie a chance to play some offense for once. Em had played goalie in the second quarter--a position she's been scared of ever since getting kicked in the chest during a game when she was eight, a kick that was so hard you could see the cleat pattern in the bruises left behind--and had had to sit out third quarter (each girl has to sit out one quarter if all 12 girls are present at the game). At first I assumed she was crying because she was scared of playing goalie again. But, instead, as she sobbed into my neck, it was because "it's boring playing goalie; I want to be DOING something. I have all this energy, and I won't get to burn it off in the goal."
The crying at the end of the game had me totally flummoxed. After all, her team had won, 6-1.
"What is the matter?" I asked, as she buried her face in chest, trying to hide her tears from her teammates.
"They scored their first goal of the season on ME," she wailed. [Not true; this was game three, and they had apparently scored a goal in game one, though I didn't know that at the time.]
"But you stopped a whole bunch of balls, and that one was a perfect kick. Nobody could have stopped it."
"That's not true," she insisted. "I should have stopped it. I could have!"
"Only if you were superhuman," I said. "It was shoulder high, shot across the net, and went right into the corner. There are professional players who wouldn't have been able to stop that ball!"
But she wasn't buying it, at least not then. [Several hours later, as she helped me cook dinner, she admitted, "I realize now that I did a pretty good job as goalie today...though I'm still mad that they scored on me."]
So here's the thing: I know the crying isn't a good thing. And I know that to most other people, to most of the other parents on the team certainly, it looks like immaturity and poor sportsmanship. But can I just say? In some ways, it makes me really happy, and even proud. It makes me happy that she enjoys this game so much. She's not crying about having to go out there and get dirty and sweaty; she's crying because she's not getting to go out there and get dirty and sweaty enough. And I am proud of her fierce competitive spirit; the fact that she gets angry at herself for what she perceives as letting her team down, or not being the very best that she can be. She doesn't complain about the other girls on her team missing a shot or letting one past and into the goal; in fact, she's the first one to run over and pat them on the back and tell them, "Don't worry about it," or "Nice try!" It's only when she falls short of her own standards that she lets it all get to her.
Now if only I can get her to give herself a leeeetle bit of a break...