At the beginning of the month, I moved into my new one-year job and started my new shift work schedule. Weekly, I alternate between an opening shift (6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.), swing shift (11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.), and closing shift (1:00 p.m. to…well….whenever the last person leaves…usually no earlier than 9:00).
The jury is still out as to which shift I like the best. Especially, since I have yet to work swing shift. But opening is my early favorite. (I don’t think Elise likes any of them.) Though I have to get up at 4:30 in order to make it to the office on time (and after five days of waking up at 4:30 in a row, I promptly crashed on the couch Saturday afternoon—after eating the best tacos in town at Taco Bamba—and literally could not move, though all three kids came upstairs from watching TV no less than three times each to ask me for a snack), it’s like having two complete days. After working a full eight hour day, I am home by 3:00 for Clem and I to meet the boys at the bus stop and spend the rest of the evening with them. Last week, I even got to make dinner two or three nights.
In addition to Clementine’s ballet lessons, the main thing that has been going on in the Hanna household is soccer. Lots and lots of soccer. Pete has soccer practice Tuesday nights and Sam has soccer practice on Friday nights. This past weekend both boys had games on Saturday and Sunday. Fortunately, they are both loving it.
Saturdays games were later in the morning. We woke to a light rain and went about our morning at a leisurely pace under the assumption games would be cancelled. All of a sudden it was half an hour before kickoff and the game still hadn’t been cancelled, so we shifted into panic mode and piled everyone into the car and raced to the field.
The only thing more enjoyable than racing (or participating in your own sporting event) is watching your own children compete. I imagine some may have difficulty with handing over their dreams of competition to the next generation, but for me, it has been a complete joy. To watch how they compete, their faces as they race across the field—Pete’s a grimace of pure determination even when he is running away from the ball or the play, to see how they interact with their teammates on the bench.
The boys’ games are very different. Pete’s games are the quintessential and enduring vision of All-American youth soccer. Two teams of four small kids each moving as a pack following the ball around the field, like iron filings on a magnet or a cloud of flies around a picnic chicken leg. There is no strategy in their games, unless Pete has one in his head that he has yet to a share with his teammates and coach—which, if you know Peter, is entirely possible. Pete is fast, one of the fastest kids on the field. He often overruns the play or is the first one to the ball. Sometimes, he runs alongside the ball. He is hesitant and sometimes waits to see if anyone else will kick the ball before kicking it himself. They have had two weeks’ worth of games, and from last week to this week, both boys have become more assertive, showing more of a willingness to get into a play or challenge the opposition.
I don’t think either Elise or I would have thought Pete would enjoy soccer as much as he has. I think we both knew how much Sam would love it, and it seems like it exactly what he needs that maybe he hasn’t gotten in a while, the opportunity to be with kids his age. I remember when we were on home leave, and the only kids around for Sam to play with were his younger brother and sister. They mostly got along, but there were moments when they fought or when he became frustrated with them, and I thought then that what he needed most at that time was to play with kids his own age like he did at his school in Chennai.
They both seemingly love soccer now, but for totally different reasons. Sam loves the game and the camaraderie that comes with it, with being part of a team. Pete, on the other hand, is like a dog with his head out of the window. He loves the wind through his hair, and after a day stuck behind a school desk, to run back and forth on the grass is exactly what he needs. When he takes the field for warm ups, he kicks the ball back and forth to himself, oblivious to his teammates, in a form of parallel play common to toddlers, but which many grow out of by Pete’s age.
After two weeks, neither boy has scored a goal—not that that’s even the point. I’d be happy if neither of them score a goal all season if they continue to derive as much pleasure from the sport as they are now. Sam’s team is more organized. They have a strategy, positions, and plays, and watching Sam on the field, he seems to understand where he needs to be and why. He has good moves.
Yesterday, he took a ball at point blank range to the face. Elise was with Peter, providing cover so he could pee in the bushes. The coach immediately called, “Stop play!”, and both coaches ran to make sure he was okay. I ran halfway out into the field, then retreated slightly embarrassed. I didn’t want to embarrass Sam or seem overly protective, but was naturally wanted to make sure he was okay. I waited until he moved to the bench. When I got to him a few minutes later, he had stopped crying—if he had cried much at all. A few tears inevitably escaped, but for the most part he took it like a champ. I was impressed and a little surprised, because an incident of similar scale at home would have elicited a reaction like someone was trying to saw off his leg.
As expected here—as in India—the weeks are busy and the weekends hold promise of quiet refuge. Last weekend and next weekend—especially with Elise having been out of town the weekend before last—all were content lying low and staying close to home…which is often the case. On her trip, Elise ate and drank well, including a dinner of paella. She brought the inspiration home with her, and we made grilled paella Saturday night. The weather was perfect and we drank beers and wine and listened to country music on the back deck until almost sundown as we made dinner, the kids playing in the yard. It makes shift work almost seem worth it. Almost.