Living Room Soccer

A small rubber soccer ball is bouncing off every surface in my living room. Two kinds of laughter ring out across the space, one deep and almost that of a grown man, the other still small and childish enough to cheer the heart. Though I fear for every breakable thing in the house, I would not end this impromptu game for anything. These moments are rare and music to my soul.

Our boys are 15 and six. Since they’re so far apart in age, they don’t have many similarities beyond physical appearance. The older boy is stoic, solemn, mature, a textbook firstborn son. He gets good grades easily and never gets in trouble. The little one is as loud, boisterous, and extroverted as the older one is quiet. This baby child of the family is as mischievous as an imp and infinitely more charming with a love for music and a giant personality. He keeps us laughing and guessing at what might come out of his mouth next.

Complete opposites in almost every way, these boys still find common ground in this beautiful game. The older boy alternates between easily keeping the ball from his little brother and letting him have it just to see the immense joy on the younger one’s face. Little brother thinks everything big brother does is beyond reproach. For him, stealing the ball from such an accomplished player must be a great feat.

I watch in silence from the kitchen; they don’t notice me. I wonder how many more of these moments I will get to witness. Even now, as teenagers do, big brother spends more time with his friends, more time in his room, and less time with the family. Little brother watches him with envy, as he plays with his high school team, goes off to a formal, or gets dressed in his school uniform. He wants to be part of everything but understands on some level that he just can’t.

I have wondered so many times why God made me wait almost ten years for the second child. I wonder how this relationship will look when they are 10 and 20 or 40 and 50. Will they love each other? Will big brother still be looking out for little brother, even when little brother doesn’t want him to? How many years before the little one realizes that the big one isn’t perfect and strikes out on his own path?

Those days will be here soon enough. For now, I try to stay in the moment. The game is drawing to a natural close. Little brother is getting tired; it’s close to bedtime. Big brother’s phone is going crazy on the table, waiting to be acknowledged with all its text alerts and Instagram posts. On the next move, big brother topples little brother and then helps him back up. With a hug and a pat, big says to little that it’s time to turn in. He glances at me, and I step in to put the protesting younger child to bed.

My heart is full; it’s been a good day. Whatever tomorrow brings, today is a good memory.