Sunday, October 02, 2005

Soccer Momhood

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 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.


  1. I get what you're saying completely. My son is playing soccer right now and I can tell he's going to be just like I was as a kid. If I could forget my parents were watching and block them out, i did fine. But, when I didn't I was way too concerned with what they thought if I messed up or if they were watching. And, that's just how he is. I do think he'd play better sometimes if we weren't there.

    Competitive parents suck. I am a very vocal "cheering" parent for all the kids, probably too vocal, but I can't stand it when I see some parents yelling rude things or keeping stats. My kid is 6 and I've seen all of this in our YMCA "love everyone" league! It's nuts!

  2. I so dread the soccer times, I know they are coming. I so want Syd to be a part of sports, and I so hope I am able to maintain that balance between it being a sport and fun and not some knock down drag out war that it can be. My husband thinks playing games without a score is insane. I see the benefits of both. I played to win when I was young and I came out ok...I think....I'll get back to you on that one!

    The struggle of trying to justify not being able to be the be-all-end-all Mom, when you come up with that cure all please pass it along. When I am at work, I feel like I should be at home, when I am at home I feel like I should be working.....they never mentioned this in the parenting class before we had our baby!!!

  3. This is great to read, because I am the opposite of you. My husband coaches my 12-year-old's team, takes off from work for 12 and 14's games- all of them- and rings a cowbell every time our team scores a goal. We are loud and proud yellers. Our whole family loves soccer and to be honest, we couldn't care less about what anyone else thinks.

    Our girls absolutely do not like it one bit when at least one of us isn't there. But I can see Momcat's feelings too about getting too nervous when parents are there. Probably a nice balance of being there enought to show you care is fine. When I was a cheerleader in high school, my parents came to nearly every game and when they weren't there, I was secretly relieved. So I wouldn't worry too much about it.
    I certainly don't judge parents who don't yell (except for the ones I know who are diehard professional sports fans and certainly do plenty of yelling when the game's on, yet are silent at their own children's games). But I hope that parents who don't yell don't judge me for yelling, either!

  4. Lucinda: I actually envy you yellers. I've always been too reserved or something.I definitely don't judge the yellers--there's one Mom in particular who I'm absolutely in awe of--she sits at every game, clipping coupons and still knows (by name!) every kid and where the ball is and she shouts encouragement (by name!) to every kid on our team. It's stunning. I can barely make out their jersey numbers from the bleachers and she knows them all BY NAME!!!! It's stunning and a little intimidating...

    The ones who really worry me are the ones who are the last game I heard two dads from the opposing (green) team talking. One yelled, "Get hungry, Green!" and the other said, "We should just yell, 'Don't be so pathetic, Green!'" I was thirty feet away and had no trouble hearing the "pathetic" comment so I'm pretty sure it could be heard on the field. That stuff just makes me sad.

    Tawny: If they had warned us would we have believed them? Would we have done it anyway? :)

    MomCat: Thanks! That makes me feel better. And if they're yelling rude things at the YMCA little kid level, just wait 'til varsity. Oh man! ;)

  5. At one of my son's tee ball games there was a kid who wasn't terribly interested in the game. He was picking dandelions in the field, etc. Actually about half the kids on the team had a wandering attention span. Well when the kid got back to the bench his dad through water from the water bottle in his face. (This was NOT a coach, just a parent) I don't think the world will end if the tee ball kids aren't totally focused but I worry about that kid and his parents' priorities.

  6. I think I would get more entertainment watching a child pick dandilions instead of playing ball. I would laugh my ass off!!!That is what makes them KIDS...I think I might have lost it myself on the parent. But then what am I doing the the minds watching this?

  7. mom's sidekick10/3/05, 11:28 PM

    Mom failed to mention one reason she is attempting the soccer-mom-scene: I refuse to be a soccer-dad.

    While I fully support my children's interest and envolvement in sports (yes, I go to all the parent meetings at the beginning of each season), I have a very difficult time dealing with all those issues Mom mentioned (the other parents).

    It is simply safer to avoid them!

    On the other hand, I do actually play the sports with the gang, so I suppose I am not yet remiss in my fatherly duties.

    For all the cheering parents? I have sensitive ears, if not a sensitive ego.

  8. We're not at the soccer age yet, but I blanche every Friday night in the ER at the number of injuries I get from soccer games. And yet I want my boys to run and yell and do whatever sports give them joy, and if they want me on the sidelines, I'll be there. Flask in back pocket, of course. It's nice to know others have been there before me. But yikes, who knew there was so much intrigue?!

  9. you still don't know anything after 17 years???!!! are you trying to KILL ME???


    but, great thoughts here. you *might* know more than you're letting on. just don't run off with the highschool bf and screw everyone up, k?!

  10. Luckily, one of the many things Mr. High School and I have in common is an aversion to strenuous exercise. You don't have to worry about us running anywhere! :o)

  11. Listen. I realllly hope this doesn't offend but...I read this funny and wacky woman and here's what she said about soccer moms. If it's too much you can remove it and I apologize but it just cracked me up!

  12. Nita--I'm glad that things haven't degraded that far around here yet!That was sooo funny---thanks for pointing it out!

  13. Nita-

    That link was CLASSIC! So true and I can see it happening. Thanks for the laugh I really needed it!