I don’t hate soccer. Really. I have a folding canvas chair in the back of my minivan and a fleece blanket to ward off hypothermia while I camp on the sidelines of frosty fields. I’ve risen at dawn to drive my kid to games in suburbs so remote that there are no Starbucks.
I’ve ironed numbers on jerseys, crawled on my belly to look under the couch for matching shin guards and, over the years, have accumulated enough outgrown cleats and practice shirts to outfit a Brazilian orphanage. I’ve cancelled plans so that my child could get a trophy for participating in a tournament on Memorial Day weekend and I’ve shelled out money for pricey soccer camps where all of the counselors have Irish accents. I’ve even purchased a special Tupperware™ container to hold the orange sections that I cut into perfect eighths when it’s my turn to bring the halftime snack.
I don’t hate soccer. But this season, I’m wondering if my son would suffer permanent psychological damage if I didn’t go to every single game.
It’s a shocking concept, I know. I mean, in my town, going to soccer games is what parents do. Our weekends are measured in 15 minute quarters. Skip a game and people might think that you are home sucking down beers and watching pro wrestling.
Mama’s not going to no soccer game, boy. She’s going to stay right here and watch the TeeVee.
Actually, that sounds kind of fun. But so does gardening, or meeting a friend for lunch or taking my dog for a long walk – all things that I used to like to do before I became a soccer mom.
Now, every weekend, I huddle with other parents and watch 9-year-olds dribble. We shout encouragement – Good job! Nice try! – when our team is down and try not to visibly gloat if our own child actually makes contact with the ball. At halftime, we arrange play dates, make sure that laces are tied and that Gatorade™ is consumed. We monitor the clock to make sure that our child gets as much playing time as the coach’s kid and for 60 soccer minutes – which in real-world time is most of a perfectly good Saturday – we watch our children play.
We have lost our minds. When we were kids, it was different. Soccer, like the invasion of killer bees, was something that happened in other countries. So we spent our youth arguing over the rules of Red Rover and stomping on ant hills. Our parents didn’t coach us, or cheer for us, or urge us to be more aggressive. They might have been inside watching pro wrestling, but they sure weren’t watching us play.
And we turned out OK. In fact, there might be some things a kid can’t learn while his parents are watching. Like how to play for the love of the game – not his dad’s approval. Or when to put your jacket on without your mom telling you it’s getting cold, and even how to regale the family at dinner with tales from the game that they missed.
There are probably a few lessons for parents, too. Like how to let go and let your child have his own experiences. And how to make time for yourself.
So, I asked my son, “Do you mind if I miss your game on Saturday?”
“I don’t care,” he said. “Can I have a popsicle?”
“Yes.” I said. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah. Do we have any more green ones?”
It was a poignant exchange.
Well, anyway, you won’t see me at soccer on Saturday. Oh, I’ll keep the canvas chair in the van, but this weekend, instead of going to my son’s game, I’ll be watching pro wrestling … uhhh, I mean gardening.
Carol Band posts her dispatches on modern family life from her living room couch and muddy suburban soccer fields. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more of Carol’s award-winning Household Word columns, check out Parenthood.com/householdword.html.