The man has three distinct scenes in mind before this conversation with Lucia. At age eight, she hit her five-year mark with the local dance company, which meant that she was to receive a five-year award at the spring dance recital. They issued these awards partway through the recital. Each kid’s name was called, and each kid walked across stage, accepted a medal, trophy, or plaque, and then moved off stage. Then, they called Lucia. She strode across the stage like a super model, blew a kiss to the crowd, and waved at everyone. The audience roared, and she loved it.
Separately, in her first season of town soccer, she was playing midfield. She was not particularly aggressive, but most kids her age weren’t either. She had friends on the team, and she liked the uniforms and hanging out with the kids. In this particular game, a ball landed in front of her, and on the other side of it was another player. She moved toward it, but the other player beat her, wound up big, and booted the ball into Lucia’s face. Lucia immediately covered her face with her hands, the game stopped, and she came out. Thereafter, she approached all loose balls with her chest and head tilted back and her foot aimed generally toward the ball. No amount of coaching could convince her to be more aggressive.
That winter, she played indoor soccer, and in this particular game, she played center defense. Midway through a tight game, the other team’s left wing sent in a centering pass. Lucia stuck out her foot to block it and hit it perfectly home for an own goal. Instantly, she put her hands over her face, then returned to her position while the ball was brought back to the center for kickoff. The man left his perch and snuck across to the team’s bench, and when Lucia came out, he stopped to ask her if she was okay.
“Yeah. I mean, that was dumb and embarrassing. But can you go away? It’s okay.”
So today, he and Lauren come into the family room where Lucia is reading a book.
“Hey, Boo,” the man says.
She looks up. “What did I do wrong?”
He laughs. “Really? I say hi, and you want to know what you’re in trouble for?”
“Well, you have this voice like we’re gonna talk about something big I did wrong. And you and Mom are together, sooo . . .”
He shakes his head and rolls his eyes. “I want you to be honest about something.”
“Uh okay. This really does sound bad.”
“Do you like playing soccer?”
“I mean, it’s okay.”
“Really? Like, do you really want to play the spring season?”
“Didn’t you guys already pay for it?”
“It’s not a ton of money,” Lauren says.
“It’s sunk cost now. No point wasting both that money and a bunch of time doing something you hate.”
“Don’t you love soccer, Dad?”
“Of course, I love soccer. But I’m not the one playing it. Do you love it?”
“Are you gonna be wicked disappointed if I say no?”
“Of course not, Lu,” Lauren says.
“That’s why I’m asking you. It seems to me you don’t like it very much, but if you do, then great, we’ll support you. From my observations, you don’t act like someone who likes it that much, whereas, when it comes to dance, you do. So if you don’t want to play, that’s okay.”
“It’s really okay? You won’t be mad?”
“Not a bit. You have to do something. You don’t get to sit around and stare at TV after school. But it doesn’t have to be soccer. It can be dance. It can be working out. It can be coding. It can be art. Whatever.”
“Wow, uh, great. Then, no, I don’t want to play soccer.”
“Any idea what you might want to do in its place?”
“Maybe try out for dance team? That’s a lot more involved than just the classes.”
“Sounds great. Take a look at it, and let us know for sure what you think.”