My girls finished their inaugural soccer season recently, and I have come to the realization that I am, frankly, a terrible soccer mom.
I mean, I’m a great soccer mom in the sense that I scramble home after work three times a week and get dinner cooked, served & cleaned up, socks & uniforms washed and ready, and then rush off to the field laden with chairs and water bottles and a spare ball for whichever child isn’t playing that night.
I kick butt when it’s my night for snack; I don’t stop at fresh fruit chunks and the evidently obligatory popsicles for after the game; I bring special, home-made, soccer-themed cupcakes to celebrate the end of the season.
I’ve hauled coolers full of icy wet towels for the girls on really hot nights, and I’ve huddled shivering under my umbrella through seemingly never-ending games in the rain.
For a rookie, I did pretty damn well.
Except for the actual soccer part.
No matter how hard I try, no matter how futile I know it is, I cannot keep my mouth shut during the game.
What starts as mild encouragement grows into raucous cheering and then edges into the territory of all-out sideline coaching.
Yes, I am that mom (cower).
Even as I’m doing it, I am aware of how screechy and desperate I sound, my commands issuing out into the evening air. My other child (whichever one isn’t playing) will admonish me, remind me to read my magazine or paint her toenails or doing anything to distract myself from the scrum on the field.
I don’t know why I do it. The players can’t hear me; the coach has asked us to leave the instruction to him, and the other parents don’t seem to give two hoots if our team wins, loses or has a tea-party in the middle of the field.
It is U8 and U9 recreational soccer. It is the league that was specifically designed for girls who don’t have the skill, athleticism or interest to play competitively. We are supposed to be happy that they are out there at all, running around and chatting with other little girls. Whether or not they actually direct the white and black sphere towards a net is apparently completely beside the point.
Obviously, my husband and I are out of the loop on that one. Both of us being fairly competitive in nature, we cannot fathom how any parent would not at least oblige her child to try. That they pay attention to the game, at least while they are on the field and the ball is rolling around and bumping into their own feet. I get that not every child has the same drive or ability; I have a harder time accepting that parents would enroll their children in a team sport, and then not encourage them to be active participants, would not put in the time or effort to help them develop even a little interest in the game or confidence in their own abilities.
My trouble is that I evidently feel the need to step in where these parents have checked out, and I go ahead and tell them to “GO CHARLOTTE, RUN!” and “KICK THE BALL MOLLY! KICK THE BALL!” and whatever you do “FIGHT FOR IT! GO FOR IT! MOVE!!!!!!”
It can be truly excruciating to watch these girls play, but of course I love it. I just wish I could keep a lid on the squawking a little better. When I was young, I wouldn’t permit my parents within 6 city blocks of any sporting event in which I was participating, and they were IDEAL supporters. Never said a word, never critiqued a performance, just smiles and encouragement and praise all the time. And still, if I so much as smelled my dad’s Old Spice inside the gym while I was playing basketball, I wouldn’t talk to him for three days.
I keep expecting an evening to arrive when my girls finally tell me to stay home and not embarrass them. And I keep hoping that I can rid myself of my bad habits long before that ever happens. I guess the good news is that having survived the first season, I have all winter to figure it out.
So tell me, what kind of sports-parent are you?