One of the most interesting things that has happened over the course of my very adventurous year is watching my kids grow from preschoolers into grade school children (dare I say tweens?).  And they’ve had their first exposure to bullies, to the fact that I so very  obviously like know NOTHING you know (duh), and their first team sports.  This spring, the twins played soccer, which I think every single child in this town does.  They played non-competitively, of course, on the team where we cheer when they score a goal for their team, we cheer when they score a goal for the other team, or we cheer when they pick their nose and twirl their hair the whole time.  No goalies, no score, just fun.  Everybody wins.

However, as the season went on, some of the kiddos stopped picking their noses and started really getting competitive.  One of my twins was even seen throwing elbows (defensively, of course).

Don’t worry.  My other twin still picks her nose and twirls her hair.  I actually tried to make her a better player by telling her the ball was a unicorn and the goal was the castle.  The other team would kill the unicorn if…yeah…it didn’t work.  Instead, all of the parents cheered (and I cried) when she kicked the ball down the field for the first time in the last game.  Yes, it was to the wrong goal.  But it was the most movement we had seen out of her all year.  It turns out she WASN’T afraid of the ball.  She was just  not really very talented…yet.

But some of the girls got quite good as the games went on.  Mia (not her real name; none of these are), the shortest kid on the team, was a ringer.  Erin scowled as she played.  And Hannah… well Hannah grew about four inches over the season, making her the only real FAST player on the team.

Saturday, the girls had their very last game.  For the second time this season, they played the team that had matching soccer balls, matching socks, matching hair accessories, matching snack bags, matching cheers, and matching really aggressive-over-the-top yelling parents.  Their coach was a ripped mom who went hoarse in the first quarter.  Clearly, they were in it to win it.

And even though we didn’t keep score, it was clear  who was kicking our little ragamuffins’ asses.

Hannah, who had grown so much, was the only player who could make it down the field before the matching team.  I think those extra four inches all went into her legs.  She could beat the Heathers down to the other goal, over the protests of their parents.

And then she would simply kick the ball out of bounds.

Play over.  New start.

It was kind like when Indiana Jones shot his pistol at that fancypants kung fu guy.

She did this probably ten or twelve times before one of the Heathers (played by a young Winona Ryder, no doubt) looked at Hannah and said, “STOP DOING THAT!”

Hannah retorted, shrugging her shoulders, “It’s just part of the game.”

Hannah is absolutely right, though.  So many times in life, we set ourselves up, knowing 100% that we are set up for perfection.  We are so SURE that we have everything in place.  We are going to WIN this time dammit!

And someone comes along, and with one fell swoop, kicks the ball out of bounds.

And there we sit, crestfallen…brokenhearted…dejected…defeated.

It must be unfair.  After  all, we did all of that preparation.

But it’s not.  It’s all part of the game.  It’s all part of life.

And it is fair.  Sometimes others just outsmart us.

And to the winners go the spoils.  And to the losers go the lessons, the wisdom.

I guarantee that little girl who was so dejected during the soccer game took away a valuable lesson from that game.  I guarantee next fall she will come out with a new defense.  Or perhaps she will have learned to kick the ball out of bounds herself.  And while she was very upset that day, I guarantee it will make her a better player.

As much as it hurts at the time, this is what those “defeated” moments teach us in our own lives.  It is up to us to just keep having the courage and tenacity to come back to play another day.