After years of watching her older sister play soccer, my 5-year-old daughter finally put on a uniform and stepped onto the pitch.
It was a moment that might never have come.
She had traveled all over the Tampa Bay area and as far away as Melbourne watching her sister, who is six years older, play select soccer for the VSI West Florida Flames.
But now she finally got to rise from the sideline where she sat patiently for years as a cheerleader with nary an extracurricular activity to call her own.
Sure it was just rec ball, a coed grouping of mostly 5-year-olds, but it was her team, not her sister's, and that meant as much to her parents as it meant to her.
Prior to joining her first organized sport, Kendal stood out primarily because of her long blond hair and being Kali's kid sister.
My wife and I committed to spurring her interest in after-school endeavors, but she always showed feigning interest. She danced for a year at Judy's Dance Academy in Valrico, another stomping ground of her senior sibling, but despite acting like a princess at times, Kendal proved not to be the ballerina type.
We thought at one point we had a budding gymnast on our hands, but one trip to see some advanced gymnasts at Golden City Gymnastics in Brandon and she quickly lost all interest, vowing never to "flip around like that."
As parents, we wanted to be fair and rewarding and not expect her just to support her older sister. We kept trying to help her discover her calling.
She eventually chose soccer on her own — when she was ready. Now it was time to encourage her, but we remained unsure. Kendal often goes off script and blazes her own trail.
Parenting decisions should be based on a simple premise — doing the right thing, for the right reason. It would have been easier and more convenient to just focus on developing the established interests of the elder child while waiting until Kendal got older. But any younger sibling will tell you, that's just not fair.
We talked up Kendal's first game and she expressed sufficient excitement. In her first appearance on the field, she sprinted down the sideline, dribbling the ball with reckless abandon on her way to a goal.
She beamed an ear to ear smile.
Then she did it again. And again. Three goals later, Kendal had guided her Eagles to a 6-2 victory over the Buccaneers.
The hat trick validated our efforts. We came to realize that sometimes you have to be patient yet persistent to ensure the second child has the same opportunities as the first.
Eric Vician is a married father of two who lives in Seffner.