Is there a Lethal Weapon 5? It was on the Lifetime Channel, so the watch soccer mom film stretched to 2 hours with commercials.
It is a reflex and you cannot stop it. You watch him reach into his pocket, check to see who is calling, see that it is you, and decline the call.
You call him again. You can hear him scream this from the other side of the field a portion of a second after it comes through the phone. Put Maya in goal. Move Alexis to midfield.
There is another battle for the ball and you involuntarily kick the air a third time, as if you are a frog on a dissection table in Bologna and Luigi Galvani is electrifying your muscles with a charged scalpel.
You cannot not kick. It reaches nearly one hundred degrees here in peak sun, and your naked neck broils like a steak while you watch twenty-two children burn a collective 6, calories. You must appear to be a good soccer mom, even though you fear you are not one.
Your soccer mom status is cemented by a few other behaviors.
First, there is the belief that your daughter is an irreplaceable anchor—the star, if you will, even if only in your own eyes, on any given team. Or your son is the star.
Or your stepson is.
You drive to windswept fields teeming with hundreds of other children, and plunk your ass in a folding chair while your children exercise, watching them with the same obsessive interest slower members of society have in reality TV shows.
Sometimes you bring snacks. For yourself. Next is the unhealthy obsession with outfitting your children like professional athletes. Sporty kids need gear, so if you are a regular person like me, you fork over whatever you can swing, handing down cleats and outgrown gloves and gear bags to your smaller children in the gear queue, occasionally shopping at Play It Again Sports in a neighboring town where no one you know will see you buying used sports equipment.
You forgo new clothes for yourself, or luxuries of any sort in order for these children to have the extra thick shin guards, or properly fitting Under Armor, even though you remember playing childhood softball and basketball in sneakers from K-Mart and cheap, silk-screened team t-shirts without any ill effects, except for the fact that you did not get a college sports scholarship.
You begin to believe that your children need this gear in order to have the athletic opportunity they deserve. As if a pair of cleats will be the thing that turns your child into a winner.
Then there is the schedule juggling. If you are lucky, your child will not be on both the school team and the travel team of the same sport in a season, as that is a scheduling state so stressful that it has been known to cause mothers to develop trichotillomania.
You can easily spot these poor women: they are the ones quietly plucking out their own eyebrows or eyelashes at red lights or in sports complex parking lots. They looked pinched and backed up, because they have had to train their bowels to follow a certain schedule, as they have no time of their own to take a dump from seven am until midnight on weekdays or at any time during the weekend, especially if they still have preschoolers at home.
If you are like me, this herculean effort makes you cry at least once per season, or drink alone at night after everyone has gone to bed.
Then there is the ill-lighted, miscast pride that comes with knowing that you birthed a remarkable athlete. This is the shameful part of soccer momming.
Parents who take their kids' sports too seriously can get out of hand on the sidelines.
It is heady stuff that can weaken the soul. You see your child twist in space in an artful way, and watch them outrun or out-think a competitor, and even though the competitor is a pony-tailed princess who sleeps with her own stuffed animal at night, your mind has reduced her to enemy status.
It came out of you. You did it. You are triumphing, by proxy, over a nine year-old child. Bully for you. Like kicking an invisible ball on the sidelines like an idiot, this suburban movement is a part of something that has its own tide, a tide that moves in and out with the seasons, a tide you feel yourself drowning in on occasion, because after all, you were the tattooed, boot-shod rebel who swore she would never live in the suburbs and drive a minivan, and yet you have ended up rocking that minivan hard and living in the burbiest of burbs, which frankly, bores you to tears, but is so, so safe and so good for the children.
You are the woman who swore you would stick your kids in daycare the moment your maternity leave was over so you could go back to building your career, but that plan scorched up like a dried leaf the moment your first child was placed in your arms. Others might tell you to check your privilege for complaining about such a luxury, but it is more confusing and complicated than simple middle class wealth.
At times, especially during the middle of a given season, you may remember college, when you had the luxury to write short stories for fun and you wrote one about a married woman with kids who fakes her own death and uses a new identity to start over in the Pacific Northwest, a place that seems cool and woodsy and quiet, a far cry from standing in four inches of palm tree shade on the sidelines of a sports field, or your sour laundry room, or the inside of your sweat-soaked minivan.
This deficit requires you to occasionally dump your kid on the field and race to the grocery store, buy oranges, race home and cut them up, and bag them and bring them back to the field, often missing the first quarter of the game. Or you forget to turn in the cookie dough or gift wrap fundraiser orders in, or worse, you forget to sell the cookie dough or gift wrap at all.
There are so many game days. Why do you suck so badly? It is a time when your children are as beautiful as they have ever been, though you thought nothing could be as beautiful as their babyhood.
The flushed, salty cheeks, the hair sticking to the sweat on their necks, their knobby knees, bandaged fingers, their giant protective equipment that seems to dwarf them at the beginning of the season, but which look perfectly fitted by the last game.
The effort they give forth that makes you weep at times. If you are like me, you have cried while watching the two teams shake hands after a particularly difficult game. Your children are doing important work, even though it looks like they are playing games.
They are learning how to lose graciously, one of the most valuable of life skills, and if they have good coaches, they learn about devotion: to team, to coach, to someone other than you, and this is healthy. This is a time when the children still need you to show them how to be.
You are training two or three or four little people to grow up and be better versions of yourself, and this is one way to leave your mark on the world, one way to make a difference—to produce people who are consistently good to others despite personal obstacles, ones who will be decent to others despite having menstrual cramps, or being cut off in traffic, or feeling exhausted, or losing something important, like a big game, or a contract, or a job, or a friend.
You can see this growth transform them, sometimes from week to week. One day, you will see the coach introduce a skill and your child will fumble with it like a puppy, yet improve bit by bit, until one day during a game, when the pressure is on, you will see the child execute the thing perfectly, exactly the way she was taught.
If you are like me, the first time you realize that the effort you invest in making these activities happen is a finite thing, and that one day it will go away, it stops being a chore, and begins to be something precious, like oxygen.
You watch them with a different eye while they repeat the same drills for weeks, running, jumping, getting knocked over, failing, laughing, weeping, building friendships, pushing their limits, and for a brief while, all things considered, there is no limit to the hope vested in these beautiful young people of yours.
It never was. Dawn S.