This is not about how I have a kid in soccer and live in the suburbs, but I’m still too cool to be a soccer mum. No no. This is about how despite the fact that I have a kid in soccer and live in the suburbs, an indisputable formula for such a thing, I’m a BAD soccer mum. Worst of the bunch, perhaps.
We have two kids, and one—my daughter, age 8—plays soccer for our local club. My husband and I take turns taking her, since we have another child at home and frankly, it doesn’t seem like an activity that requires both of us to show up on a Saturday morning, week after week. I don’t know what happens when it’s my husband’s week; my guess is that he’s happily oblivious to any of his so-called shortcomings in the sport-parent category, and he just watches the game and then heads home and forgets about it. Unlike me, he tries not to clutter up his head with craziness.
Me? Every week I go is a reminder of how I still suck at this.
First of all, there’s the simple request from the coaches: Bring a ball and water. We inevitably remember the ball at the last minute, at which point my daughter informs me that it’s “under the house” or in some other challenging location, and we have to decide between showing up late or showing up without a ball. (I take turns there, too.)
Water? I’m usually pretty good about this, but in the warmer months, our water always gets too warm, because I forget to fill it with ice. Or I want to fill it with ice, but we don’t have any, because the ice maker in our fridge makes too much noise and annoys us, so we turn it off.
Last weekend, the summer soccer league started, and I filled up a huge, adult-sized water bottle, not worried about keeping it cold, and was foolishly proud of myself for bringing such a big bottle for such a small kid. She ran out halfway through the game. I had to be rescued by the well-prepared soccer parents, who graciously poured some of their extra water into my daughter’s bottle. (One even had two extra bottles in the car, just in case.) “Next time I’ll bring two,” I said after thanking one of the parents, and she replied, a bit curtly, “That’s what I always do.”
And then there’s all the yelling from the sidelines.
Now we live in a nice town and nobody’s allowed to act like a jerk at the games. Nobody gets booed, great effort is applauded by the crowd no matter which team shows it; a good kick is a good kick. But where did everyone else get the lingo? How the heck did they learn all the girls’ names and how to differentiate one from the other as they run in a big maroon mass across the field? Are they making it up? Sadly, I don’t think so; they all seem to know how to coach any girl on the team in any position at any time. I have no vocabulary for such things, and can’t really tell who’s doing what or if she did it well. I can spot a good kick because the ball travels down the field, and a goal is a goal, but after that? I’ve got nothing.
Also, am I supposed to be actually enjoying this? I like seeing my daughter happy, and doing something she loves, and frankly, I’m in awe of her devotion and courage. She loves being the goalie, a high pressure position, and seeing her give her all, week after week, is inspiring. But the sad truth is that watching an entire soccer practice and game is not really very entertaining for me. I’m dying to bring a book, and just sit back and read, but I can’t face the judgment of the water-bringing, ball-remembering, soccer-knowledgeable parents.
The reality of it is that I don’t understand sports at all. I was the kid who hid behind the gym, hoping they’d forget I was supposed to be in the gym during PE. (It never worked, but I kept trying.) I was equal-opportunity awkward, terrible at any sport I tried. I always thought being a good hockey player would be really cool, but I was just awful at it and finally got wise enough to negotiate with the more talented and eager players in the field, offering to get out of the way if the ball appeared so they could make the goal and the credit. Since the other option was team dismay over my failure to do so, it was a good choice.
The only thing I had half a chance at was the now-maligned and feared game of dodge ball, because the goal was in line with my most natural of instincts: running AWAY from the ball. That was something my small and scrawny self could do with ease. Years later, my optometrist explained that because I have radically different vision in each eye, I would never be good at volleyball or tennis, and should stick to games that involve pushing a ball away, like golf and pool. That doesn’t explain my crappy throwing arm, my lack of stamina, or my loathing for having to serve in volleyball, but it does explain some of the rest.
The result is that I never chose a sport, practiced it and got better at it, ever. I never scored a goal of any kind in any game. I did what I had to do to get by and the minute PE stopped being a requirement (thank you, hippie high school) I stopped taking it. That wasn’t a problem until my daughter took up soccer, leaving me in a condition which I find quite unfamiliar: speechless.
And so instead of being a crappy athlete, I’m now a crappy soccer mum. I love my daughter and I want to do right by her, but I fall short. Sometimes we forget the ball, and for weeks we had shin guards that were too small and had to put them around her socks because the Velcro hurt her skin. And then there was the time I ran out into the field to give her a hoodie because it was cold and got chastised by the coach for covering up her uniform. See? I really have no idea what I’m doing.
Worst. Soccer mum. Ever.
But I take her to lunch after the game, and score all the points I missed on the field. Once food is involved, it’s this mum for the win.
More mum confessions from the heart:
- My Toilet Trained 2-Year-Old Is Not An Attack On You
- 21 Things Only Soccer Mums Know
- Sometimes, I Don’t Like Being a Mum