My toddler just started playing on a soccer team. Of course, by “soccer” I mean allegedly a sport in other parts of the world, and by “team” I mean a loose configuration of tiny humans who run around confused and are desperately trying to avoid playing anything that resembles “soccer.”
It’s super fun (she types wishing there was a sarcasm font).
No, no. Really, it is. Or, at least it would be, if either my son or me had the slightest interest in doing it. But, as it turns out, he is the laziest soccer player in the world and I am the world’s worst soccer mom.
This toxic combo is especially awful because when it comes to toddler soccer, it’s the parents that do the heavy lifting of the actual soccer playing. We go out on the field with them and help them do the drills and, in my particular case, even hold my son’s hand while we kick soccer balls way too hard in the wrong direction because he is going through a “shy” phase (the quotes here are important because this alleged shyness appears only when we are doing something he doesn’t necessarily want to do). In fact, the only one in the family who seems to enjoy soccer is his baby sister and this is despite the fact she is getting jiggled to death in her baby carrier.
The coaches are great. The parents are great. The other kids are great.
Riker and I just happen to be the worst.
What makes this particularly ironic is that I grew up in a small Ohio town. That alone meant I was pretty much legally required to love sports. To be a devoted fan of sports. Where I’m from, you’re not even allowed to marry someone who supports a rival sports team without written permission from your parents, both head coaches, and a religious leader who supports the same team you do and shows it by ending church service early during the season so you don’t miss the pre-game coverage.
I exaggerate, of course.
It can just be verbal consent.
As a kid in a small Midwestern town, I also did my due diligence and played sports as well. Starting with T-ball and later moving up to volleyball, basketball, track and one season as a truly awful cheerleader. Every season I played a sport and every summer was one long sports camp after the other. I was so busy with sports as a teenager it’s amazing I even had time to illegally drink all that cheap room temperature beer in the middle of a cornfield.
So, see, by all rights I should be a fantastic sports mom. Especially considering I had a fantastic role model. My mom went to all of my games. ALL OF THEM. Freezing track meets in the spring, volleyball games in un-air-conditioned gyms in the early fall, basketball games where my team only scored four points the entire game (true story).
And as far as I know, she never once rolled her eyes or complained. Meanwhile, when Riker looks at me during soccer and says “can we go home now?”, I respond “god, I hope so soon.”
Anyone know where I can buy a “World’s Worst Soccer Mom” shirt?
But that ends today. Because my son deserves better. Because he deserves what I had growing up. Because even though I no longer watch sports or play sports or care about sports, all those years of my life devoted to youth sports ultimately made me a better person. And I want the same kind of experience for my kids.
So, I’m going to do what any good woman does for the men in her life. I’m going to fake it. From here on out, I am soccer’s No. 1 fan from 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. every Thursday and Friday, Eastern Standard Time. I will cheer and be enthusiastic and keep the eye-rolling to a minimum whenever I hear yet another person yell “DON’T USE YOUR HANDS!” I even bought a soccer ball for my son so we can practice in the park (and by “practice” I mean “run around and kick the ball in random directions until we kick it in the river and it’s lost forever”).
Yes, I will fake it! I will make him think that I love every second of watching him play soccer! Even though technically I’m the one doing the soccer drills while yelling “Look! See how fun this is, sweetie?” while he chases a butterfly and picks his nose!
You know, this experience makes me really glad that my own mother truly did love being at every single one of my gam…oh wait…
Well played, mom. Well played.