Robbie had his first soccer practice of the season this week. He had to go straight from after care at school to practice because both Mike and I got hung up at work, which meant he didn't have a soccer ball or cleats with him, neither of which seemed to bother him.
We arrived at the field and I walked him over to the team. The coach knew him from last season when Robbie and his son had been on the same team. I turned to walk away from the field and was kind of surprised to feel my stomach sinking a little bit to leave him there. It's not like I was going far away -- just to the parking lot, only for 60 minutes. But I found myself feeling a little anxious for him and oddly as though I'd left a little piece of my heart out there on the soccer field.
"Please have fun," I thought. "Please make a friend. Please come running to the sideline after practice sweaty-headed and dirty and smiling." And then I began to think about what I would say in case he didn't have fun or make a friend or come off the field smiling. "It's only the first practice. Next time you'll know someone."
I watched practice from my car and realized that the uneasiness -- all 2 minutes of it -- was all on me. Robbie didn't have one bit of hesitation. He kicked and ran and participated in the drills. I was happy that he was wearing his favorite neon green hoodie, so I could easily pick him out from the crowd of boys.
How did this happen to me, this anxiety over leaving my 11-year-old at a soccer field while I sat 100 yards away? I never had those fears for Charlie. Maybe that's because when it comes to sports, Charlie has never known a stranger. If there is a ball involved, he is your friend and is game for whatever game you've got. I don't think I've felt that way about Annie. She can be shy when she first meets someone, but she is such a confident spirit that any shyness melts away easily. So why do I fuss about Robbie?
He is my baby. I swore I would never treat my third child any different than I treated the other two. But I do. Not only is he my baby, but he's my spectrum kid. My pervasive-development-disorder-not-otherwise-specified boy. So that means in some instances, he needs kid gloves. But as I sat there watching his neon green hood bobbing up and down the field, I realized this kid has changed. Right under my nervous and watchful eye. He has grown and matured. While I was sitting there praying he would make a friend, he was out there praying he would make a goal.
I guess its time I start letting go a little. Loosening the reins and watching where he will go. And I realize (and my older two will be oh so happy to hear it) that he's also grown up enough to be held to a higher standard. To be expected to pull his weight more than we've required of him in the past.
I can't promise not to get nervous or overprotective again where Robbie is concerned. But at least maybe not on the soccer field.