Son-Three had a soccer game last weekend. He scored two goals--and got hit in the windpipe so hard he had to sit out the last two minutes of the game. Like a lot of moms, I feel my child's pain--hell, I feel everyone else's children's pain, too. Two boys on the opposing team banged heads and fell to the ground and I groaned out loud and grabbed my ears. (It's a good thing I wasn't watching the varsity game being played at the same time, where a senior dislocated his knee and had to be taken off the field by ambulance--I probably would've been walking with a limp all week.)
This feeling another's pain is just one of the reasons I'm not sure I'm really cut out for Soccer Mom-hood. I certainly never intended to become a Soccer Mom. In fact, my senior year in high school, I'm pretty sure that every time anyone asked me what I wanted to do after graduation I said, "Be a burden on society."
But I put away childish dreams and moved on to my own children's childish dreams...so here I am on the sidelines of a game or two, gasping out loud, applauding appropriately, and staring in awe at the parents who scream so loud I'm sure they're going to burst a vein at any moment. (Now, that's a second-hand pain that could ruin an afternoon.)
It's clear to anyone who's even a little perceptive that the competition off the field, between the parents, is at least as intense as it is out on the field. Who's been to the most games? Whose kid has the best stats? Who knows the most obscure lingo? Who can yell the loudest?*
I'm not much of a yeller and I think there's a fine line between encouragement and disparagement, between rooting for and putting down, between constructive criticism and destructive taunting. There are parents at every game dancing all over that line. These are the kind of parents who make me feel inadequate--not involved enough, not gung-ho enough, not anything enough.
I can't be at every game--there are schedule constraints, financial constraints, there's a whole world of constraints. Though no one has ever said anything out loud to me about my absences, I often catch myself mentally defending my position. "I have three other children, a full-time job, the Hubby, the house..."
The truth is that even if I could be at every game, I'm not really sure Son-Three would want me there. Along with all the other fine lines involved, there seems to be a fine line between being there enough and being there too much. Honestly, though this is probably a spectacularly unpopular opinion, I think it does him some good that I can't be there for every game. It fosters independence, it fosters doing for the sake of doing (rather than doing to impress Mom or anyone else). Of course, saying that is supposed to make me feel better about not being there and so then I get in a tangled mess in my mind wondering if I'm just rationalizing my own laziness and inability to "be there" for my kid.
There are two things I know for sure about parenting: One is that, even after seventeen years, I hardly know anything. The other is that it's not in anyone's best interest for parents to compete with one another--no one wins. Doubts go with the territory and comparisons are not at all energy efficient. We're all out there just cobbling together the best life we can for ourselves and for our kids and it's insane to imagine that we know what's better for the next guy (or gal) anymore than they know what's better for us.
That said, I'll stumble down from the soapbox and get some rest before the next game.
*For a more complete field guide to Soccer Moms and Dads see Lucinda's post.
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