School started this past week and so did rugby for my six-year-old. Aside from all the dramatic changes in our family life, I knew this year would be a big turning point for him, and I am beginning to get the feeling that this is also the beginning of a new chapter in parenting for me, the one in which I say goodbye to my weekends.
Six started first grade this year. There is no kindergarten in Italy so the first day of first grade was kind of a shock. In a country that obsesses over verrrrrrrrrry sloooooooooowly acclimating little kids to preschool each year, you’d think they’d ease the kids into elementary school, but no, not at all. It was a rough couple of days at first, but on the third day, I dropped him off and he took off for his classroom with a bunch of friends and his bright new Transformers backpack, almost forgetting to say goodbye.
(That also happened to be the same day that my two-and-a-half-year-old did not cry for the first time when I left him at school – he had started a week earlier – and that was the day I left them both with a skip in my step. They were going to be okay. Maybe I was too.)
On Friday, Six came home with homework for the weekend. Real homework! We were both a little excited about the novelty of it, but I am sure that will wear off soon.
As for the rugby, Six started last spring, and talked about it on and off all summer, so I figured we’d sign him up again. Except last year it was very low-key and not too time consuming. He was in the Under 6 category and loved, loved, loved it. He was even pretty good, or as good as a five-year-old can be at running very fast with a giant ball in his hands. There were a couple of tournaments near the end, but they were optional, and we skipped them, claiming we didn’t want to put too much pressure on our son, when mostly it was because neither of us wanted to get up before dawn to drive far, far away for a day-long tournament and then drive back. I think we went to the beach instead.
This week, when I signed him up, and the man with the clipboard mentioned mandatory Saturday practices and, two Sundays a month, tournaments and something he called concentramenti which sound a little ominous to the unaccustomed ear, although another, more indoctrinated mother assured me they are “not what they sound like” when she saw my face. I asked if all this was still optional and was told that every family’s participation is crucial. Rugby is a social sport, etc. and it’s not competitive and there is no pressure on the kids to win, but they need to be part of the team and the parents need to contribute, etc.
I totally get that. I do. Really. And I think this is a great way for my son to spend time outdoors with other kids. I will admit that rugby scared me a little at first – it was not my idea! – but now that I am a little more familiar with it, it seems like the right kind of sport for developing social skills, boosting confidence and meeting that need my child seems to have to run around very fast while shouting and knocking other children over. But I do think it’s going to take some getting used to.
And then of course there is the required parental involvement, which is complicated and more painful than it should be. But I can do it. We both can! And we can smile and be nice to each other, or at least I can.
And then I can come home and help my kid do homework. In Italian. Oh yes, I can.