The other day I brought my son, Hardy, to his last soccer game of the spring season. Hardy is five and half now and the game of soccer still rather new to him. Dribbling the ball, passing and scoring are secondary considerations. Mostly, he likes seeing his friends.

On this day, as soon as we arrived at the West Tisbury fields, Hardy ran off to join his buddies. There were six of them hanging about the goal. When he reached the group, Hardy took down his pants and mooned the other kids. In response, another boy removed his own pants and pretended to pee on everyone. A third boy, so desperate to join the fun, rushed his move and became entangled in his own underwear. He gamely hopped about on one leg for awhile but eventually fell to the ground where he then became the pivot point for a game of nude leapfrog. Not 10 feet away a lonely bag of soccer balls lay untouched.

I was standing with a mom friend at the time and I heard her gasp. The look on her face was not one of anger, but of deep confusion. She shook her head. “Why,” she asked. “Why would they do that?”

I shrugged my shoulders. It was a bizarre sight. And yet somehow beautiful too. I tried to remember back to that time when the simple act of seeing friends was so wonderful a handshake or good morning just wouldn’t do.

These days soccer feels as essential as breakfast or brushing my teeth. Each morning my children and I watch the World Cup. In the evenings, when the English channels no longer broadcast the games, we turn to the Spanish channels. We bring the globe to the couch, point out the countries playing, and practice our new Spanish words, too. My son also asks me who I want to win each game. This is as it should be. The players are professionals and we watch in order to find out who wins.

Closer to home, the Vineyard U-13s and U-15s, heading out to their state championship tournaments this weekend, will also be thinking about winning. They have worked hard all season and now they have the opportunity to achieve something they will remember for the rest of their lives.

It is hard for me to believe that my son is just a few years behind these boys and that perhaps soon he will not stop in mid-kick to pick dandelions or watch a cloud pass by. And I am excited by the prospect of cheering him on as he develops his competitive fire. But still, I hope he remembers these days when the game was almost an afterthought just to being with his pals, a feeling so perfect the only possible reaction was to drop trou.

And if he doesn’t, I’ll be sure to remind him.