Killer Instinct

We’re at our son’s indoor soccer game, watching him wander around the court as if in search of flowers to pick. So far it’s been a mediocre game: two teams of 2nd & 3rd grade boys and girls, some running after the ball, others standing around or wandering like our son. Occasionally someone kicks the ball towards a goal. I think each team has scored once, though they don’t post the score, so it’s easy to lose track.

Suddenly this kid sweeps towards our team’s goal from the far side of the court. He’s one of the larger kids: not fat, but solidly built; his dark hair is trimmed close on the sides and sticks up bushily on top. In one gilding pass he sinks a goal and arcs away from it, towards his side of the court, back towards the bleachers where we sit. Now that he’s facing us I can see the look on his face: he’s mouthing a primal scream of victory worthy of professional sports. Wearing that look, his haircut becomes defiant instead of bushy and he seems at least three years older than his teammates. This kid is cool.

I laugh and turn to look at my husband.

“Did you see that look?” I ask.

He nods, grinning. He shakes his head and says, “That’s the kind of killer instinct I wish our son had.”

I look back towards the game. After a moment he adds, “Do you know who had that look as a kid? Your brother.”

I laugh. “My brother was born with that look!” This may actually be true; they didn’t videotape deliveries in 1976, so we’ll never know for sure.

“I had that look.”

I’m skeptical. “You had that look at age 7?”

“I did.”

“My mother probably has ten pictures of my brother with that look. No, more than ten.”

He points at me. “You never had that look.”

He blames my genes for our son’s lack of sports interest and instinct. The year I played high school basketball, my entire team stood up and cheered on the single occasion I fought another girl for the ball. Standing 5’10” at age 14, I had only joined the team so that my dad would pay for ballet lessons. I had no interest, no killer instinct.

I shrug. He can blame me, but it’s got to be a recessive trait because my family is full of jocks and sports fanatics. When I was a year old my mother broke her leg in a highly competitive game of backyard volleyball. That would never happen to me, because having a one-year-old is a perfect excuse to sit any game out.

“I wonder if our three-year-old will have that look,” I say.

“He’d better! Otherwise this baby is our only hope.” He holds up the baby and smiles at him. “Yes! You would be our only hope. Are you going to have that look?”

I have a hard time imagining it. I think he’d better pin his hopes on the three-year-old.

Categories: Life, Parenting

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