The first lesson all this soccer-viewing provides is World Cup geography. Even though Monkey has already been to two other continents, his familiarity with countries such as Cote d'Ivoire and Croatia is limited. As the players walk onto the field, I talk about their country, their language(s), what they are known for and show Monkey where the country is located on the map.
Another lesson is about our heritage. I don't know how American's figure out who to root for, but as a Bolivian, I have had to create a hierarchy of who to root for first. Highest on the hierarchy are Bolivia and the US. Since Bolivia hasn't made it to the World Cup since 1994, I instead root for South American countries and Spain. If there is no South American country, then I root for the underdog. If there is no underdog, I root for the native countries of my or Munchkin's diverse set of friends. As the weeks have progressed, Monkey has recognized more and more flags and jerseys from various countries.
Speaking of underdogs, rooting for them is another concept worth explaining to kids at this age. Teaching Monkey that there are people and countries that don't have the same advantages as other teams--whether it's wealth, opportunity or experience--has been valuable. The idea that even though we haven't met people from some of the countries we supported is one I hope he can apply to future classmates who might need just one friend.
If there is one lesson that many of this year's teams have illustrated, it's that persistence pays off. Making just one goal--be it in the first or last minute of playing time--can alter the outcome of a game (and entry to the next round) and that goal doesn't come without determination and repeated attempts to score. On the flip side, Monkey got some practice reigning in his emotions when a favored team lost. I hope I modeled some good behavior when a few (okay, a lot) of the countries I supported got knocked out. Sportsmanship means knowing that sometimes "our" team is going to lose.
Along with some of these big lessons, there were a lot of small ones: witnessing the endurance the players developed to play at this level; that whining and diving are not appreciated in this family, even if they do earn a player another shot on goal; that breaking one's nose does not preclude a player from finishing a game; sometimes, the better team doesn't win the game. All is fair in love and futbol.
Even though there was a lot of over-time in the TV department (that unfortunately led to "stoppage" time in the productivity department), nothing beats the joy of cheering like a mad person alongside my kids and swinging them around the living room after a great goal. Now, whenever a game is on Munchkin will randomly run into the room and cheer loudly and ask to be swung around, goal or not. The final is this weekend and we will be rooting for our South American brother, Argentina. But if, after the final is over, we feel a certain sadness that the games and our lessons are over, I will say, "Fear not my children, the Women's World Cup is only a year away and we will be watching very very closely."