I am killing my kids’ childhood, one sports practice at a time.
At least, that’s what the self-proclaimed “anti soccer moms” would have me believe. They pat themselves on the back because THEIR kids are going to enjoy drippy popsicles and hours spent building lego castles and letting their imaginations take them where they will. Instead of, you know, consorting with The Devil.
Congratulations. And thank you for the implication that because my kids play sports, and because I am not only a soccer mom but a baseball and softball mom and a swim mom and a sometimes dance mom and a former gymnastics, karate and art class mom, I am somehow depriving my children.
I love mommy wars, don’t you?
I guess it’s cool to be the ASM. Like it’s cool to be the free range mom right now. Giving a big eff you to The Man.
The Man, in this case, being sports.
I take it being a soccer mom means you shove your kid into a sport in which he or she has no interest, drive them all over creation, screw the family dinner, look like a tired mess, never have any down time and leave that child exhausted and pining for his or her, er, iPad.
The only accurate part is the looking like a tired mess. But that’s only because I am also Homework Mom.
My kids like playing sports. Maybe yours don’t, and that’s fine too. Forcing your kids to do something they’re not into doesn’t make you a soccer mom. It makes you a frustrated mom.
Listen. It’s not about making sure your kids don’t fall behind some mythical Keeping of with the Joneses family of elite athletes. It’s about giving your kids the chance to try things that interest them. When my kids ask me to sign them up for a sport, I do it. My job is transportation. Well, that and uniform washing. And, of course, spectating. I sit and watch them practice: baseball, softball, swimming, soccer. I cheer them on at games. I make sure they have water and a snack. And, most days, matching socks. I play catch with them in the street and kick the soccer ball around in the yard until they want to do something else. Or nothing at all.
Sawyer has an entire group of friends from another school across town he met through playing soccer and baseball. These boys come to his birthday parties and he goes to theirs. When they leave their elementary school in a few years for the big mixed stew of four elementary schools that is middle school, Sawyer will already know a ton of kids. David and I are good friends with the parents, from hours spent bonding on concrete bleachers and saggy canvas chairs. There was the time Xander peed on the potty I set up on the bleachers and the other moms cheered so loudly the kids on the field stopped practice to wonder what was going on.
Because we are all moms. Regardless of whether there’s a sport in front of our name or not.
I could go on about the health benefits of active kids. Or that sports teach discipline and how to work as a team and be a good teammate and how to lose and also, how to win graciously. I have watched passion develop. I could tell you about the priceless looks on their faces as my children learn to throw a ball that pops into a glove; when my son hit the ball onto the outfield grass on the fly for the first time or my daughter scored two goals against a team a year older.
But you’ve heard all that kind of stuff.
So let me tell you a secret: My kids stay out on the street playing with the neighbors until dark. Sometimes til after dark. They play basketball and kickball and kick the can. Ride bikes and scooters. Toast marshmallows over a fire pit. Hang out and play video games. They have playdates. Go to birthday parties. Get dirty. Watch TV. Sell Girl Scout cookies. Read. Turn cartwheels. Play Barbies.
They even eat popsicles.
Those memories will be as much a part of their childhood as the moments they spent on fields and in the pool.
Besides, what my kids will remember about playing sports won’t be the practices or a missed dinner or skinned knees.
What they will remember is that I was there for everything.
I was there.
I’m a mom.
I’m a mom.