This 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.
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.