At the start of each soccer season I take the same vow. I will cheerfully bring my child to every practice. I will cheerfully attend every game, no matter how early, no matter how cold and drizzly, no matter how much I’d rather be under the covers. I’ll cheerfully grin and bear that picture day has been moved to 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning. I’ll cheerfully remember to bring juice and oranges when it’s my turn.
But then something happens. By game five my good intentions deflate like used party balloons. Battle fatigue sets in.
I’m convinced the AYSO was conceived by some mad scientist to determine the ruggedness of the human species. Once it was easy to separate the strong from the weak. Ancient ancestors hunted woolly mammoths. Their wives cooked these creatures, carved them up, and threw them on the dinner table. One hundred years ago our forefathers and foremothers got up at dawn to chop wood and bake bread. With everything a touch of a button now, how does Mother Nature determine who are the strongest?
That’s where children’s soccer comes in. I submit the AYSO was invented for this purpose, the latest test to determine the survival of the fittest. Of course, kids are exempt. We know they’re hardy. My son and his teammates could rise at 5:00 a.m. and play during a hailstorm, typhoon, or tidal wave. My youngest has to be reminded to wear a jacket in sub-zero weather. They both love to play in the rain barefoot. No, this test is about parents. And already I’m flunking.
When the wind’s whipping and gray skies are threatening, I try not to throw pitiful glances at the coach, hoping he’ll end the game. I try and wear the same stalwart expression of my fellow soccer parents. At 7:15 a.m. on Sunday morning I try not to look red-eyed and cranky as I escort my scampering son to the field. I try not to look like I just fell out of bed, which I have. I at least make an effort to change out of pajamas and brush my teeth. And yet I know I’m one of the weak.
For years I’ve searched for any excuse to say to my husband, “Let’s get out of this thing.” Instead my children have learned the meaning of trying their best, of working as a team. The coaches have cheered my son as he made a goal and put a consoling arm around him when he didn’t. If I messed up and brought my son late or forgot it’s my day for juice, do the coaches rant and rave? No, they smile and shrug. “It happens to everyone.” I’m always back to the same painful truth. The fault lies not with the players, refs, or game. The fault lies with me.
So I’m resigned. I’ll never be the perfect soccer mom and am surely on the evolutionary “b” list by now. Yet once in a while a strange thing happens. Maybe it’s a crisp October day or a balmy spring afternoon when the sun feels just right. My son’s happily running down the field and I know years from now, I’ll miss this. For all the ranting and raving, moaning and groaning, I know these days are as fast-moving as that soccer ball. Maybe the lesson here is to enjoy these times for what they are, when my children loved to kick a ball and play barefoot in the rain.