Killing childhood

by , posted on February 8th, 2013 in Parenting

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.







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15 Responses to “Killing childhood”

  1. Victoria KP Says:

    February 8th, 2013 at 8:43 am

    Ah, the Mommy Wars! As if ANY of us has all the answers. Every kid is different, every mom is different, and every situation is different. I think the key is letting your kids lead and finding what works for your family. My kids have done soccer and baseball. They love being on a team and hanging out with and making new friends. But they aren’t that into the sport itself. As they’re getting older and it’s becoming more competitive, they’re getting “squeezed out”. We have lots of kids in my neighborhood who spend hours kicking around a soccer ball or playing catch. My kids aren’t like that. When they’re outside, they’d rather slay imaginary dragons or pretend to be Jedi knights.
    Victoria KP recently posted..Karen: Silent Prayer


    Cheryl Reply:

    I remember the dragonslayer/jedi days! Frankly the kids most want to play video games. My kids were at a neighbors to watch the super bowl and all seven kids had their faces in their ipads/itouches

    And yes, whatever works for your family. The labeling is what gets me annoyed.


  2. julie gardner Says:

    February 8th, 2013 at 10:35 am

    I want to live on your block.

    For a lot of reasons…
    julie gardner recently posted..So we had a fire


    Cheryl Reply:

    I would totally play kick the can with you.



  3. Arnebya Says:

    February 8th, 2013 at 11:17 am

    Why do we do this to one another? This constant judgment of others’ lives, families, decisions has got to stop. You know what’s best for your family, no one else. I wish my kids had the ability to play with their friends outside but we don’t have other kids in our neighborhood (5 or 6 blocks over, sure, but not the immediate houses.) I’ve gotten the “your kids are lazy” crap from parents who have NO clue that my children may not participate in the sports at school but one runs and one is in cheerleading. And you know what? They don’t know because I don’t tell them because it’s none of their damn business. As long as your kids want to do whatever they want to do…do it.
    Arnebya recently posted..Book Review: Lisa Gardner’s Touch & Go


    Cheryl Reply:

    Couldn’t agree more. Do what’s best for your family and stop with the labeling. Women are so good at judging – both others and themselves. Ugh!!


  4. Elissa Says:

    February 8th, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Those mommy’s who hate organized sports? They’re uncoordinated in the first place. And? Always got picked last.

    Seriously, when my daughter asked to join the rep volleyball team, I was more than happy to: shell out the money, drive, wash uniforms and take her to extra clinics. The smile on her face after a 2 hour practice complete with 100 burpees is incredible.


    Cheryl Reply:

    HA! Now, now..

    Also, my stomach aches thinking about those burpees..


  5. Anne Louise Bannon Says:

    February 8th, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    I *was* one of the kids who got picked last and I survived it. But I do like being physically active and always encouraged my bookworm daughter to try team sports, which she did. She tried a lot of different things.
    The issue here is not about organized sports, which have their dark side as well as their benefits, but about being judgmental. As noted above, everyone is different, and while there are those parents who do run their kids into the ground with activities and the like, it’s not usually up to us to say anything. There’s a very fine line between letting a parent know that their kid is hiding something from her and assuming you know what’s best for said kid. We know what’s best for our kids – and sometimes not even then.


    Cheryl Reply:

    Exactly. It’s the judging. It’s saying that you’re not a certain thing because it’s being a bad parent. Makes me mad!

    Most of the time I have no clue what I’m doing, but I sure try to fake it. :)


  6. Ciaran Says:

    February 8th, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    I”m sorry you’re getting hate from people. I have always believed in “to each their own”. Team sports have never been my kids thing to date so I’ve never forced them, but we did try it before arriving at this decision. I had three soccer seasons and one of lacrosse, sitting on the sidelines, to reach that conclusion. Was I relieved that it wasn’t their thing and that they had no wish to continue? Possibly. Team sports weren’t so much my thing either. But I would have supported it, and made it my thing if it was their joy. Now that my daughter is into skating, we’re back to driving, washing, paying… and I’m knitting legwarmers… yay! Support! I suspect we’ll do more sideline sitting at some point with my youngest. The only parents I have a problem with are the ones who push their kids hard to pursue an activity (or drop one) that doesn’t honor the kid’s interests. Otherwise… to each their own.


    Cheryl Reply:

    Exactly. To each their own. When the kids no long want to do something, we will move on. It’s the labeling that bugs.


  7. Trina Says:

    February 8th, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    Wow this is a subject that divides moms? It seems so silly. I can see maybe if the parent is overbearing but that doesn’t sound like the case at all. Ugh sorry you are dealing with judgmental mommies.
    Trina recently posted..Adventures in Breastfeeding


    Cheryl Reply:

    It IS silly. It is completely silly!


  8. Alexandra Says:

    February 10th, 2013 at 3:21 am

    These are words of encouragement for me, as I am so bored by sports and dread the inevitable amount of time I am facing sitting on the bleachers. You make it sound more fun than I expect ;)
    Alexandra recently posted..Project Succulent at BeverlyHillsMom’s: Plant Assassin No More


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