First of all, I’m a yuppie. I drive a Prius and my wife drives a minivan. Thus we are full-hog yuppies. I don’t know if other yuppies are neurotic, but it feels better to project my inner psychological turmoil onto a category of people. What I realized at my three year old son Isaiah’s soccer practice today is how much I personally exude the qualities of suburgatory life that I critique in this abstract ideological category called “yuppie.” So it might be the case that everything I write dissing yuppies is really just autobiography. In any case, I’m a member of what I would call the 5%. The 5% are the parents of the kid who doesn’t do what all the other kids are doing effortlessly at soccer practice. I suspect that more than 5% of the parents at soccer practice think that their kid is in the 5% because when you look at the soccer field at any given moment, your kid is the only one who isn’t fitting in.
The most obnoxious thing that you can possibly say to an emotionally insecure yuppie parent (a.k.a. me) is “Just relax and enjoy yourself! If your son sees that you’re having a good time, then he’ll relax and have a good time (i.e. do all the drills that every other kid is doing cheerfully and effortlessly).” The corollary of this “reassuring” advice is if your kid is being a stick in the mud, it’s because he can see your deep-seated anxiety about his ability to fit in through all your attempts to prove that you’re being relaxed and having a good time (and God knows I was trying!). When Isaiah is at home and especially when he’s at church in a crowded room of adults on a Sunday morning, he is constantly running around, bumping into people, and saying “Tag! You’re it.” Well the first warmup activity at soccer today was to play tag. All the other kids were all about it and they had a great time doing it. And guess what? Isaiah opted out. He said, “I don’t have ay-ner-jee foe wunning.” Except that then he took off running towards the playground!!! I called him out on it and he just grinned.
So then it was time to learn what the coach called “really cool tricks.” He got the kids to huddle in a circle (which Isaiah of course wouldn’t do) and asked them if they wanted to learn “really cool tricks” and 95% of them said “YEAH!!!” So he had two “really cool tricks” to teach them. The first he called scissors where he moved his feet around the ball really quickly. The second one was to fake a big kick and then kick the ball backwards. I acted like they were the coolest things that anybody with feet had ever done. I showed them to Isaiah but he said, “I wanna do my own twicks.” So he jumped up in the air and kicked the ball with both feet mid-air to make it move forward. And he put his feet around the ball and jumped up in the air holding it between them for a split second. They were cute and creative, but those “twicks” don’t generate skills that are transferable to winning games. So I watched, affirmed (I did affirm!), tried to be patient, and said, “Okay, Daddy’s turn,” and I showed him the “twick” he was supposed to do, being as cheerful and relaxed as I possibly could be, but there is no such thing as the power of suggestion with Isaiah, except for perhaps reverse psychology.
When we played “alligator in the middle,” Isaiah didn’t really care about getting his ball gobbled up by the alligator. He prefers walking with his soccer ball rather than running (except when he’s in the backyard by himself and nobody is telling him to run). When it was time to do the scrimmage, he refused to put a penny jersey on or participate in the game. Finally he decided it would be cool to kick the ball in one of the goals on the side but he was more interested in kicking the ball out of the goal than into the goal; he wanted me to kick it into the goal so he could go behind the goal and kick it out. Then when practice was over, the coach called the kids to put their hands in the middle together and Isaiah wouldn’t so I put my hand on Isaiah’s head and put my other hand in the middle. Isaiah put his hands over his ears; I think because the part where the kids yell a cheer is too much for his auditory sensitivity.
As the practice was going on, I decided to send out the following tweet: “Some kids are sheep on the soccer field who do the drills exactly as they are shown; my son Isaiah is not.” I figure I can just make peace with the fact that Isaiah is going to be a renegade; I’m going to spin it as a positive character trait even though I’m sure I’ll continue to be as neurotic as before when I’m hanging out with all the other dads who have bigger biceps than me and exude the Robert Redford sense of absolute confidence that comes from working in the Northern Virginia high-octane corporate world.
Isaiah is probably not going to ask the right questions in Sunday school class that show what a bright and unnaturally spiritually mature pastor’s son he is (that will be my older son Matthew’s job if either of them does). Isaiah will ask the questions that make his Sunday school teachers squirm (the questions that I never had the guts to ask because I always wanted to be the kid who got the most compliments). They’ll probably make appointments to talk to me: “I’m not saying you’re doing anything wrong, pastor, but I just thought you should know about this.” Hopefully the end result will be that Isaiah refuses to go along with what everybody else is doing and thinking and letting his neurosis about not fitting in keep him from being himself. Maybe he’ll have the strength not to be the anxious, conflicted yuppie that his father is.