Monday, March 07, 2011

Hell Has Frozen Over, or How I Became a Soccer Mom

I guess it was inevitable. Four kids and thirteen years into motherhood, one of them has expressed the desire to play a sport. Specifically, Somerset was asked by a friend to join the soccer team for which several of her classmates from both her old school and her new school play. I know what you're thinking: that sentence was way too grammatically correct to have been written by a soccer mom. Am I right?

So, I'm not a sports person, we know that, no need to get all into that and have you irritated with me about what a snotty curmudgeon I am when it comes to these things. That wasn't even my point!

I have never played a sport, of any kind, ever. Wait, that's not true! I just remembered that I played on a community center basketball team one time. I had completely forgotten about that. I think the coach felt sorry for me and put me in for the last minute of the last losing game. I remember being on the court and thinking "I have not the slightest idea what I am doing, where I am supposed to go, or what I should do if I happen to end up there." But I also remember how much I liked going to practice and having the coach take the time to show me how to hold my hands when I attempted a shot.

And that's the thing, I know. Even though I really have no affinity for sports culture (ahem, see how nicely I said that?) at all, (okay, sorry, moving on), I know that participating in sports can be good for kids. It doesn't have to be all crazy competitive with the yelling beer-gutted dads and the pushy moms. That's what I keep telling myself, at least. It's all going to be fine. Right?

When I was a freshman in high school, I really didn't know who I was (duh). And when the track coach talked to my gym class about running track, I thought I'd like to do it. I went home excited about it, and my parents said no. I was bewildered. My grandmother came up from Mississippi the next day, and I tried to enlist her in my cause. No dice. None of them could really tell me why I should not run track, except to weakly imply that my grades would suffer, even though I exclaimed repeatedly that bad grades would get me kicked off the team. I knew they were wrong then just like I know it now, but I didn't understand exactly why they were wrong any more than they understood why I was right.

My parents didn't come from the kind of privileged background that involved youth league sports. Their parents didn't have the luxury of spending either time or money on such things, and honestly they had probably never even heard of such things. They spent their time trying to keep a roof over their family's heads and food on the table, not thinking about their children's self esteem and social adjustment. They couldn't see, and neither could I, that a simple thing like running track for the school team could shape my identity as a young woman. We didn't know that playing sports makes girls less likely to get pregnant in their teens, or to stay in an abusive relationship, or use drugs. But I know it now.

So today we went to a sporting goods store and bought things that seem as foreign and exotic to me as...stuff that's really foreign and exotic. Cleats. Shin guards! Really tall socks. Somerset came home, put it all on, and went outside to kick the ball around with Joshua. And now he wants to play. Great. I mean...great! Right?


Rita said...

It is great, because you're supporting your daughter in what she wants to try, even if it's out of your comfort zone. I mean, I am totally fine with guiding kids towards certain activities and away from others in a similar genre--as in, I will never (never, ever) be a hockey mom (we live in Minnesota, admitting that may be a form of child abuse here), but I'll do soccer and basketball and gymnastics and dance and (of course) tae kwon do. Anything but standing around a freaking frozen rink when the temperature outside and the temperature inside are basically the same.

But yeah, if you've got a kid who wants to try some sports, then you're being a good mother by supporting that kid. It means a lot. And no, not ALL sports moms suck. I can name a couple here who don't (and I hope I'm one of them!). But, more importantly, I guess, I can rattle off a bunch of really strong, independent and smart young women who are also athletes. I think that while it's not necessary to have girls involved in sports to make them appreciate their bodies and develop self confidence and feel strong, I think it is a shortcut to getting girls to that result.

After having done soccer with Liz last spring (but not this spring! Because she's doing dance instead!!), I can offer you this bit of advice--splurge on the deluxe yard chairs with the big shady umbrella. Seriously, it'll make the whole thing so much more comfortable.

Stacey Greenberg said...

soccer is awesome.

Angie McCullagh said...

I intensely dislike sports. But I just signed my son up for Little League because he's interested. I'll be right there with you!