The Reluctant Soccer Mom

canstockphoto3458322This is the first year that my daughter has played competitive soccer. Whatever her skills are, I discovered right away that I’m completely unqualified to be a soccer mom. A group of mothers were standing around talking about how they hoped the coaches were good this year and about the league and volunteering. After several minutes of this, I could barely control myself and blurted “I just hope my daughter has fun.” I got the oh lady, that is SO rec league look. I skulked away to talk to the team manager.

Enforced volunteering is apparently a thing with these leagues, which cost several hundred dollars for our precious snowflakes to play in. Um, I’m sorry, but my kid is no Pelé or Eusébio and unless you’re carrying her around the field and kicking for her, no “game” should cost that much. Unfortunately, as kids get older – and older becomes a relative term (meaning 10-year-olds are being scouted), recreational leagues aren’t available. And I like my kid moving and active. We just had a long conversation about how playing a skateboard video game is not actually exercise.

I paid to get out of servitude. I grumbled, too, when I did it, saying “When did my kid’s activities become my life?” The manager chuckled and said “Yeah, my dad used to just dump me off at the ballpark with a bat and glove and that was the end of it.” Of course, I felt a little shitty about grousing. The manager is a volunteer.

It might be that I’m an older parent and have spent many more years being single and not a parent than I have been married and maternal-ish. I never daydreamed about a wedding day or found babies to be particularly interesting (most of them seemed to cry when I was around).

Even now, 15 years after getting married and 11 years after having a child, I still get a little phased by this fork in the road. I was going to travel the world and have brief, unsatisfying affairs with non-English speakers. After they would leave in incomprehensible huffs in the morning, I’d brew some coffee, unfold my New York Times, see which slot my novel was in on the bestseller list and then lean back and stare out at the ocean from my balcony.

All my friends got married, some of them for a second time. Baby announcements arrived regularly. I got a degree that would land me squarely in academia. I took dead end jobs, wrote a lot of unfinished stories, had unsatisfying affairs with native English-speaking transients, and one day, decided it was time for a change.

I moved to a bigger city, got a better job, met someone who didn’t irritate me and vice versa, got married when I was 33 and at 37, became a parent.

I wasn’t overwhelmed by a sense of fulfillment, even after having a baby. In retrospect, I was likely suffering from mild postpartum depression. I remember thinking I wanted to pitch her out of a window just for some peace and quiet and a long nap. Yeah, nobody tells you that thought might occur to you and that it’s okay – as long as there is no actual baby-pitching.

It seems that no matter what one chooses, that stereotype machine does its best to suck us in and spew out carbon copy humans. Or at least humans other people can categorize, so they can sleep well at night. Because I now fall into a demographic that is rife with stereotypes, it sometimes sends a shiver of fear up my spine. I used to mock people like me.

But here I am, able to check off many boxes for the middle-aged middle class white lady demographic. It takes two seconds on the internet to tell me what’s wrong with me, what I should be wearing, just how much of a racist/feminist/sexist I am – a liberal hippie Prius-driving nitwit with privileges falling out of my ass. And there’s no end to the child-free/child-shackled screeds or why I should be popping out a few more. For farmhands, apparently.

Sometimes the messages of social media and wingnut parents get to me. I’m standing on the sidelines at a soccer game and it hits me, how did I get here? This isn’t what I planned at all. But then I see my daughter, who was never pitched out of a window, out there sprinting down the field with fierce determination on her face and I think, who gives a shit if I’m standing here in my mom jeans at the edge of suburbia? This is awesome. It’s moments in between clichés and preconceived notions that remind me I’m right where I want to be.

NEW CONCLUSION

 I wrote this post earlier in the season and I was wrong about a few things. The soccer team has lost every game. Soundly. My daughter now stands in the middle of the field, chewing her fingernails and moving as far away from any ball action as possible. The rotating coaches and lack of focus in developing the girls’ team is disheartening. A large angry man who showed up to be their coach last night and spent the whole game yelling at them has been endemic to the season. Adults ruin everything. Even a game.

I want my money back.

If my daughter ever plays competitive soccer again (highly unlikely), I’m volunteering to do whatever it takes to ensure she actually learns about soccer skills, technique and strategy. I don’t care about the winning. I care that my kid isn’t fodder for sadistic dipshits who don’t have an investment in helping kids grow in their abilities.

I’m going to be the soccer mom from hell.

35 Comments on “The Reluctant Soccer Mom

  1. One thing I remember about girls’ sports 100 years ago, when I was in school, was that they didn’t actually teach us much. They just threw us into whatever the game was and the kids who were good were good and the rest of us stayed as bad as we’d been at the beginning. (And you can guess where I was in the hierarchy.) It was horrible–and since it was school, we didn’t have the choice of dropping out.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I never played team sports (figure the odds), so the whole culture surrounding sports has eluded me. If I hadn’t had to pony up several hundred dollars just so my kid could play a game, maybe I wouldn’t be bothered by the skills thing (although the red-faced coaches would still piss me off).
      Fortunately, this “season” is almost over and my kid can get on with being a kid.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m smiling because there’s so much conflict and contradiction and frustration and hope in here — in short, you’re human. Ain’t we all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, we’re walking contradictions. But I’d rather be that, than someone immutable to change. I’m sure when all of this is in the rear view mirror, it will seem silly. I felt pretty feral last night, watching my daughter’s shoulders sag in defeat. I think losing is a necessary experience, but they really set this team up for failure and that makes me a little mad.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I get it. Balancing competition/fun/competence is tricky. My wife volunteered to coach a number of our kids’ teams. Her rationale: “I’m going to the games anyway. This way I get to yell at the kids.”

        Liked by 1 person

        • I think I’m on board with your wife. But my daughter’s personality is starting to trump sports involvement. She’s in orchestra and Java programming day camps this summer, which she describes as “epic”. We’ll stick to biking and shooting hoops at the local park. Bonus: I still get to yell at her.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. sprinting down the field with fierce determination on her face

    Near the end of the classic PBS interview series, The Power of Myth, Bill Moyers asked the mythologist Joseph Campbell to reveal his most powerful religious experience. Keep in mind that this is a man whose life work was to distill the essence of all major religions and most minor ones.

    Campbell replied that it happened on the track at Columbia while running the 100 yard dash. He experience the supremem melding of mind, body and spirit.

    By your postscript, I see that soccer went sour but don’t give up. There can be something utterly magnificent about sports.

    The best baseball game I have ever seen and will ever see, was during a playground league play-off. My son’s team had lost every game and was competing with a team determined not to be in last place. I have never seen kids play that hard or that well. It was a great moment, one my son still talks about.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve watched this league run side-by-side girls’ and boys’ practices. It’s night and day – absolutely shameful. I’m about to raise a big ole’ feminist stink about it, but since the season is almost over, I’ve ceded to my daughter’s request not to embarrass the hell out of her until it’s done.

      She is very competitive – playing her viola or programming. We’re obviously raising a nerd.

      I never played team sports, preferring individual sports, like running or martial arts, so the culture of being a spectator has never appealed to me. It’s almost un-American, I’m sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I always detested team sports. At school, where they were compulsory, I made myself indispensible to the boys’ rugby (winter) and cricket (summer) teams, as photographer, scorer, massager of egos (and occasionally limbs) and general dogsbody. Not being remotely cute (I was fat and dorky even then) I was a bit of a joke, BUT I didn’t have to play, and I even made some pocket money selling photographs of the popular players, so as far as I was concerned it was a win.

    My sport of choice is horse riding. There simply is nothing better. You can be competitive in a thousand different ways, if you want to – or you can simply climb on board and head for the hills.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m a little mad at myself for getting sucked into the idea that my daughter must play sports to be active. There are so many better ways than driving all over hell and back to practices and games. She loves being with people, but everything else about this experience has not been enjoyable for her (or for me).
      We did a little horseback riding while on vacation. They’re amazing animals.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, there are other sports that allow for team involvement without the crap that comes with team sports. Like athletics, for instance, or gymnastics, swimming or cycling – essentially you’re competing against yourself, and you have to rely on yourself, but you can be part of a team too, if that’s your thing.

        But horses … I’m hurting at the moment – sort of want to write about this but don’t know how to approach it. I tried the other day to get onto a horse a friend has loaned me for the summer (because I’m really too unfit and out of practice for my guy) and I couldn’t do it. I don’t know if it was fear or unfitness or what immobilizing me, but I COULD NOT get into the saddle. It was weird and very scary – something I have to fix, because honestly, there is no pleasure to compare with a quiet ride in the evening. Or morning. Or whenever.

        Liked by 1 person

        • She really hasn’t jived with too many sports. She loved basketball on a rec league, but people have gone so batshit crazy on having young kids compete, that once they hit 11 or 12, casual team sports become less available. She gets a pretty good social fix between friends, orchestra and her programming buddies, so no worries there.

          Sorry you’re having some troubles trying to do something you enjoy. Sometimes it can be a positive motivator – to have something you love to do returned to you. Sometimes it just means letting something go and learning to be okay where you’re at. That’s a tough one and where I struggle.

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  5. Oh my god, I love this. My daughter is younger than yours, three months old, but I often feel the same frustration and fear that I’ve lost my own identity. It takes handing her over to her grandparents and going for a walk alone to get back into a better state of mind and feeling like myself again.
    This post is exactly what I needed this morning. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad you have some family support. We didn’t have anyone near us and boy, there were some crying jags (first her, then me) that just about sent me over the edge. Walking alone sounds like the perfect respite in the middle of babyhood. People kept telling me to nap when she did, but I needed those moments, if only to read, to call a friend, to write – anything that reminded me of me. Glad you found something useful here!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My kids never wanted to play sports with teams. Thank the universe for that one. I’ve gone to games where the coaches and parents scream the kids non-stop. Whatever is wrong with these people? Anyway, glad that I didn’t have to deal with it. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think I’m starting to fall back on my old lady wisdom. “Back in my day we didn’t have organized recreation…” This soccer season seems blessedly short and the whole summer can roll out in front of her – opportunities for imagination and lazing about and giggling with her friends. Seems much healthier!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Ok, I’ll chime in with a dissenting opinion (what else would I have?) regarding team sports: I think there is a lot of value to the camaraderie and relationships that develop, and the skills learned (even when losing. How to handle loss and disappointment is one of the most important lessons we need to learn in life. How to handle winning graciouslyis also a good skill to learn).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you and believe that losing is VERY important to developing resiliency and my daughter has learned to lose and win very well at taekwondo tournaments and in other areas of her life. And I do believe in the value of camaraderie, etc.
      What aggravates me is that these leagues act like they have something to offer by charging exorbitant fees and introducing us to skilled coaches at the beginning of the season – never again to be seen at the girls’ practices, but showing up occasionally to act like Bobby Knight on a basketball court during the kids’ games.
      And in defense of those people that loathe team sports, I would say that not everyone benefits from the experience. Some people don’t thrive on the pressure to perform or enjoy being in groups of people and are happy to leave gym class and sports well behind. For me, being a “team player” sounds like the eighth ring of hell. My daughter is a different sort and for the most part, enjoys being on teams, but this particular one really bit.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This is really a great piece about stereotypes. I imagine there were other parents on the sidelines who felt exactly like you did, just hidden by the Mom jeans and backwards-worn baseball caps, seething in similar silence. Or pole-axed by the system. Loved it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. We need to go back to dropping the kids at the field (or having them walk to it). Because the tasks of organizing, of getting along, of making rules and following them are the lessons of life.

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  10. I felt for you deeply, reading this. I was so very fortunate, lucking into the coach from heaven, the year my boys played softball: A gentle, patient, talented teacher who cared about everyone learning AND just having fun. I got to see the other style of coaches, too. Yikes.

    Our cost to participate? Juice boxes and snacks, plus a $20 fee to the city park. That was 20 years ago, though.

    I believe team sports for girls are especially important. I learned this in my early business career, seeing the different success rates between the women who had that experience–or a military upbringing–and thise who didn’t. I think if hundreds of dollars are out, a bunch of moms might be wise to organize their own volleyball league–a small-group team sport easily played outdoors, and one which later can be done co-rec with rules requiring fair female participation to prevent male game domination and territory violations (and related injuries).

    Liked by 1 person

    • My daughter still likes basketball and the coach was great, so she’ll get her team fix. As for organizing a local team, my experience with parents as the PTO president was a lesson I won’t soon forget. Nothing, no matter how delightful it sounds, goes that easily.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m 35 and kinda considered an old parent with three kids 7, 5, and 2. But I relate. What’s wrong with kids having fun? My daughter did basketball and was put on a team without any of her friends. My husband remark that we didn’t have the right name and it was soo obvious since all her friends were on one team. Coaches bark at them for not running their picks. What happened to learning basic dribbling, passing, and shooting skills. Often I sit alone at these things with no one to talk to since I’m not in the circle. Guess I rebel against the “soccer mom” stereotype too. Very hard for me not to go out on the field and take charge of teaching basic skills.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am convinced that some adults ruin everything, so determined to work out their unresolved childhood feelings that they have unrealistic expectations of kids they are coaching. The last game was toughest to watch. My daughter was completely disconnected and then the coach, who hadn’t even been watching half the game, told her it was the best she’d ever played. Even my kid knew that was bull. One more week to go and then we’re going to have a regular ole’ summer. Hope you have a nice one as well!

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