In my twenties, when I still occasionally wore short, tight dresses, met my friends out in Clarendon, and threw back a few in places like Whitey’s and Carpool’s, I abhorred the phrase, “Soccer Mom” and all those NVSC bumper stickers on SUV’s and minivans. “Why,” I wondered, “do droves of drones drag Dick’s sporting goods camping chairs out to sunny fields at 9AM every Saturday morning of their lives to watch their five year old progeny get tangled up in one another’s legs like a game of Twister?” (Note the drone irony as, in my disdain for bandwagon mothers, I blended in with every other DINK twenty-something in a dress from Limited and costume jewelry from Claire’s.)
Luckily, my husband also hated soccer. When we did have children, and a Friday night in sounded much better than a Friday night out, after the kids went to bed each night, we made – and then regularly renewed — a secret pact: no child of ours would ever play team soccer.
True to our word, our oldest started out in wrestling, then football, and finally gymnastics. Sometimes, he’d mention that a friend of his was playing soccer, and we’d hold our breaths, but each time we escaped without having to outright say no, because he never asked to play.
For 7 years now, we’ve had the requisite Gas Guzzling Seats 8 Vehicle, but the back bumper stayed clean until two years ago when our oldest’s Gainesville Grizzly team was on their way to winning a championship title. Every single parent proudly displayed their allegiance, and I saw the pining in my son’s eyes, so I caved, and bought a window sticker, followed by a gymnastics sticker, then another and another. But still, we were soccer holdouts.
Until our youngest son gravitated toward it of his own accord.
Now, we are finishing up our first season as Soccer Parents, and I have to admit that I am a bona-fide convert. I was wrong to boycott this sport in the name of some ill conceived vanity born out of a connotative phrase. Woefully wrong.
How many HOURS have I spent at gymnastics meets trying to shut out the same ten bar tune as hundreds of young girls in leotards completed their compulsory floor routine? How many coloring books and Leapster batteries have my younger kids consumed while waiting for their older brother to do 15 seconds of vault or a whopping two minutes on the p-bars? How many miles have we traveled to go to meets and how many restless nights in Super 8’s trying to convince the kids that it’s fun to camp? (IE: sleep on the floor).
And what about those wrestling mats? After matches when he’s been rolling around in Mersa germs, I treat my son like one of those people wearing Hazmat suits who has to strip naked and walk through a decontamination tunnel. “Great job, honey! No – don’t touch me! Hop in the shower first WITH your headgear and throw that singlet in the hamper, pronto!”
And with football, of course, there are only two problems: 1) I can never keep up with my son’s movements on the field, so I never actually know what he’s done or why anyone is clapping. 2) In spite of protective gear and what everyone says about other sports being just as – if not more – dangerous, football has gotten a bad rep for concussions, and I’m not a big fan of those.
Here is a game that starts and finishes in an hour. That’s right. An hour. Before I’ve even finished my coffee, there’s a new slew of parents setting up their Dick’s Sporting Good camp chairs, wondering why I didn’t get the memo that this is the world’s shortest sport and that I should be halfway home by now.
If the practice field were any closer to our house, it would be – literally – in our backyard.
Our youngest son practices AND plays at the exact same place. I never need to jot down addresses or use my GPS.
If the game is home, he wears blue. If it’s away, he wears white. Either way, he plays on the same neighborhood field.
The boys run the entire time … what great exercise!
If they do get tangled up and fall down, it’s kinda cute. So is the look on each of their faces when they make a goal.
I can sit close enough to the field at all times to see my son. And since he doesn’t wear a face mask, I can actually tell which one he is.
When he’s on the sideline, I can either take a break from watching so intently or – more often than not, I’m caught up in the excitement so I still watch – just not worry so much that it’s going to be my kid who kicks the ball into the other team’s net.
Did I mention the game’s over in an hour?
The most important part, of course, is that my youngest son LOVES it. And now, like all competitive siblings, my oldest son has caught the soccer bug too. He says he’d like to try it next season.
And all I have to say is: “I’m sorry, Soccer Moms. I’m sorry I judged you to be band-wagoners. I’m sorry I was so wrong for so many years. But this is one case where I am happy to have been wrong, and now that I’ve seen the error of my ways, I want to shout it from the rooftops: I LOVE soccer too!”
Like many moms, Kathy drives a mini-van full of booster seats and Disney/Pixar DVD’s. When she’s not chauffeuring her kids, ages 10 and under, to school and activities, she teaches for Prince William County Public Schools, writes fiction, poetry and this column about the challenges and rewards of being a mom to young children.
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