Well, soccer season started again in earnest last weekend! (So far we’re 1-1: Daughter’s team won, son’s team suffered a tragic loss…) My daughter is playing in an all-girl league–it’s more recreational and is pretty laid back. My son is in the more competitive league and he’s been with this same group of boys for several seasons now so they have gelled as a team. But this year there is a new player on the team–a girl who was adopted from Ethiopia about three years ago. This girl is a sweetie–she’s energetic, she’s joyful….and most importantly, she’s a cracker jack soccer player! When I heard she was going to be on the team, I decided to hang out at a couple practices to see how she was getting along with 14 other 12-year-old boys because she does look a little different from them: she’s a girl, she’s got dark skin, while her English is pretty good, it’s still not 100%, and she has a funny first name.
Watching her interact with the boys has reminded me of my daughter’s arrival here ten years ago and her elementary years when she was still struggling with how to negotiate her new environment. And I have noticed that the guys on the team are a little aloof when it comes to interacting with her. They hesitate to pass the ball to her and haven’t quite figured out how to integrate her into the team. I am happy to report that my son is a noticeable exception to this rule though. I don’t think my son is qualitatively different from any of the other kids on his team–he has the same angst as all of the other pre-adolescent boys, BUT he has spent his life living with two girls who don’t share his skin color, so I don’t think she is all that unusual to him–she’s a girl and she’s his teammate. He sees her different color of skin, but it just isn’t big a deal to him. As a result, she feels comfortable with him too. She seeks him out during their breaks and it’s sweet to watch. I’m proud of my son, and it’s neat to watch as the other boys come around too. They’re beginning to see this new girl as a person too!