"But I'm seven", she protests, "I'm not UNDER seven". The guy in charge motions her again to the group of under seven players, so I send her off presuming he knows what's what. Hubby and I grab a sausage and find a seat alongside the field to watch. As my eyes scan the groups of kids out there, I see our eldest is grouped with her brother and they're already in a series of challenges on the ball. Scanning again for the seven-year-old, scouring my memory to recall the colour hat she was wearing. Those teeny kids way over the far side of the field all look the same to me...pink hat...white boots...ummmm...yep, got her. She's dribbling the ball around to herself among the smallest kids. Seems to be going fine there too.
As we eat and chat to other parents, I notice Miss Seven isn't in the same group as her friends from school who are in her grade. She's clearly with the youngest kids, while they're in the under nine group, where a passing for shooting drill is being run. Our girl? She's still dribbling the ball to herself. I point this out to Hubby, and we agree that she's been misplaced. We speculate that she's not going to be happy about it.
You see, she's been having some issues with being the smallest, lately. For starters, she can't reach the yellow monkey bars at school while all the other girls can. Plus, there's that tall girl who keeps calling her 'chubby', which we have worked out is her way of saying she's cute. Being the youngest gets on her goat, too. "So can you name just ONE advantage of being the youngest, Mum?", she shrieks in exasperation when she's expected to chip in like her siblings. She's been known to rightly remind me at times that, "I'm the youngest, you know. I still need help sometimes!" It's just that she's so capable...sometimes I forget. What she lacks in stature, however, she more than makes up for in smarts, which could well work against us on this occasion. I quietly hope that she's blissfully unaware of the wrong grouping.
Hubby mutters to me that she's going to be mad, being ditched in with the 'babies', no doubt making a link already about it being to do with her height, or lack of it. As we watch her group still dribbling around with a soccer ball each, it would seem she has a point. Her age group are now playing a game...and having a great time of it. It's not lost on me that she even queried this situation from the very beginning, but nobody really paid her the attention she deserved...because she's just small. I'm starting to feel her frustration.
As the final whistle blows and the kids all charge off the field, I'm relieved to see smiles all around. We launch into a discussion about what to do next, hoping to divert attention from what we think might be coming. There's a pause for a moment as they choose one activity they'd like to try. The jumping castle is rightly dubbed too small by Miss Eleven. Face painting? No interest there. How about the giant target game? Mmmm...there's a possibility. Or we could pay money to have someone dunk water over us while sitting on a toilet - the dunking dunny*. It's a unanimous and resounding YES from all three, and we head over to join the queue. As I dish out the coins needed to play, they're all talking a big game about how they'll shoot the hoop to soak someone, preferably each other. As I look at the height of the hoop, then the height of her, back to the hoop, my heart sinks a little. Nodding and smiling in encouragement, we take a step back to see how things will unfold.
It's been about five minutes, and everyone's still dry. Six or seven kids have had three shots, and nobody's made a basket. I motion that maybe we should try another game, we could be here forever, when the first basket goes in, and one soggy young girl emerges grinning from the loo. Half the crowd disperse with her, and we're back in business. In fact, there's our boy on the throne, grimacing in anticipation. Miss Eleven steps up and has her first shot. Oooh, so close. Second shot bounces right off the front rim. Third and final shot looks great in the air - - - and rebounds over to the right. No dunk. In a second, I realise Miss Seven is stepping up to the line. She shuffles her feet into place, wipes her hands down her shirt and takes the ball. Her bottom lip curls out at she blows her fringe out of her eyes and gets the target in her sight, squinting as the tip of her tongue pokes out the side of her mouth in concentration. She rocks back on her feet and pushes her arms up with perfect force, sending the ball in a graceful arch up and right down the middle of the hoop. Doesn't even hit the sides. The trigger is pushed, and her nonchalant brother gets a long, cold shower...at the hands of his little sister. The crowd goes wild. Miss Seven grins as she turns to give her Dad a high-five, then turns back to point at her now dripping brother.
The irony of the moment is not lost on me, and as we walk away Miss Seven turns and mutters to no-one in particular, "See? None of the big kids threw a basket. But I dunked...even after they put me with the little kids."