What my daughter did on the soccer field this season had nothing to do with scoring—but it proved she's a winner.

Ellie Playing Soccer
Credit: Courtesy of Mindy Walker

During these early November days, when dismantling Halloween and prepping for Thanksgiving creates a minor collision course on my to-do list, I begin to countdown for the end of the soccer season.

The mud on the cleats has become permanent. I wouldn't recognize my daughter's pair without the signature dirt. The siblings protest more forcefully about having to tag along.  And late afternoon games that used to end in sunshine are now bested by the sunset. Our team of enthusiastic 7-year-olds, led my their equally enthusiastic coach (who happens to be my husband), has had a fun season and a safe season—and that's always worth appreciating when surrounded by the latest reports about children and their increased risk of concussion and knee injury on the field. So it was with a cheerful "almost there" smile that I settled into my stadium chair this past Sunday.

Our teams were evenly matched, so the game was competitive. There were the passionate shouts from parents to "spread out" and "stay with her" and "take it." And then. There was my daughter Ellie helping her opponent tie her shoelaces at the other end of the field. They were both huddled in such deep concentration that they didn't even notice the clapping that erupted from parents from both teams. When I asked her about it after we got home, she said, "I like soccer and I like helping people." The moment felt natural to her, and I could tell that she was only proud of herself after we told her how proud we were.

My husband and I have a lot of action shots of Ellie on the field, but I can't imagine that any of them will ever be better than this one. It's a wonderful reminder that we all play for the same team, something that kids are often best at demonstrating. For me, it's also a timely lesson to stop hurtling into the holiday season. There is still plenty to savor here.

Mindy Walker is the executive editor of American Baby. A mom of three who can organize a mean carpool and a week's worth of dinners on her train commute to the office, she wishes she could go back in time to apologize for rolling her eyes to the silver-haired ladies at the buffet-style restaurant that her parents would drag her and her sisters to on Sundays. The ladies used to say in astonishment, "My, you're so grown-up. It seems like just yesterday you were born." Those ladies were right. Kids do grow up shockingly fast. Plus, the fried chicken at that long-closed restaurant? Unbeatable.