Of all the titles I had imagined I would acquire in adulthood "soccer mom" was not one of them. The American Heritage Dictionary defines the term as: "an American mother living in the suburbs whose time is often spent transporting her children from one athletic activity or event to another." An unglamorous description to depict a rather tedious life.
Surely, my role as a stay-at-home mother with four kids aged 14, 11, 10 and five involves more than just shuttling them all over town in our Suburu Tribeca (My husband refuses to buy or drive a minivan.) It involves much more. Aside from being the cook, the maid, the aforementioned chauffeur, I also handle all the monthly bill paying, yearly tax filing, seemingly endless car service appointments, doctor visits, and school meetings/paperwork. Pretty busy, right? And I'm proud to I say I've become quite efficient at it, since the on-the-job training remains rigorous and ongoing. With these steady responsibilities my days can sometimes feel slow, yet the weeks somehow manage to go by quickly. But ever so often I would find myself-- usually while en route to a soccer tournament in the next town-- scrambling to collect those elusive thoughts for that book I had planned to start in my college freshman year. Sadly I keep bypassing that junction where creativity and opportunity converge.
But back to being a soccer mom. Don't get me wrong; I am aware that there are worse labels to adopt. I get to live my life out in the idyllic suburbs, away from the city smog and traffic congestion. Plus my husband and I are able to enroll the kids in various soccer programs, without having to take out a second mortgage to cover all the club dues and travel expenses. So I am not complaining, especially not when the kids still enjoy playing and get so much out of it. They all first started at the age of four, so, except for the oldest, the open soccer field became the younger ones' living room when they were toddlers. I have many vivid memories of trekking across the grass with the little ones either in my arms or shuffling behind. My husband was our kids' volunteer coach until they began to play at the travel level. On one particular weekend, all four had games at three different locations-- two with overlapping times. Ball juggling was often a part of the kids' practice routine. For us soccer moms, we juggle something else: our time and our sanity.
And, somewhere along the way, I start to develop a deep appreciation for the sport, having witnessed the considerable effort the kids put into playing it. We chose soccer as the starting sport for them because it makes thorough use of their youthful, inexhaustible energy. Along with improved conditioning, they also acquire invaluable lessons of discipline and teamwork. For my part, I've learned a few things on the sidelines as well-- the most important of which was how to be a spectator.
By the time our third child started the travel program, it was necessary for me to assume a different, if not better, perspective on the game. Now the playing level is unmistakably higher, the competition greater, and the different athletic abilities among players become more apparent. It's a humbling experience to acknowledge that your child is not as fast as the kid he's defending, and that speed is probably something he'll never possess. You'll have no choice but to accept his limitations and focus on the qualities he does have - the ones that got him on the team in the first place. He might not blow past anybody, but he demonstrates solid foot skills, consistently works hard, and is an amazingly smart player. It's not an easy lesson, but I am grateful to have learned it. Against my characteristically noncontentious self, I've stared down a few parents who make a spectacle of themselves on the sidelines, by either screaming at the players or arguing against the refs. It's youth soccer, and it's not always about winning. And, to quote my oldest daughter, "Let's unleash you, the parents, onto the field to chase the ball around for an hour".
Having kids who remain committed to playing, soccer has become a major part of my life. International soccer, particularly Spanish and English, is one of the two things I'll sit in front of the television for. It is such a beautiful sport, played with finesse and energy. Some of my girlfriends don't quite get why I would trade HGTV for GolTV. To me it's pure entertainment, even with the occasional player theatrics. And my kids know to avoid getting that ultimate penalty when they misbehave-- stashed permanently in my shirt pocket, the dreaded Red Card.