Amelia is 7, Ben is 4.5, and this is the first fall we've registered them for soccer. I wasn't against the sport so much as I was against two ideas:
1. Giving up Saturday mornings--mornings I'd rather be running, cleaning, chatting with my long-distance friends--to stand on the sidelines while amoebas of shin-guarded tykes floated around the field, playing what Amelia's new coach calls "bunchball."
2. Living up to the stereotype that I already am. I drive an Odyssey. I have a pair of Dansko clogs (although I never wear them: they make my hips hurt too much). I buy paper products in bulk--and love a good Costco sample. I feel like I've really made an effort with my appearance when I wear a pair of jeans that aren't sprung in the knees and I've covered up my eye circles and and errant zits. (What's up with 38-year-old soccer moms getting zits, anyway?)
But this year, we decided Amelia needed to try a team sport--she'd been in swimming and dancing lessons--and because whatever Thing One does, Thing Two definitely has to do, we bought size 3 balls, cleats that make Ben's feet look as wide as dinner rolls and suited them both up for beautiful game.
The first tournament, a three-gamer which Amelia had after exactly one practice, did not go well. Amelia was all psyched to play goalie in the first game, until she realized she had to wear a pink pinny over her white shirt. She pitched a fit, I was confused--the girl has more shades of pink than Strawberry Shortcake; what's the problem?--so then I made excuses for her. Together, we looked like we were going to be the requisite problem parent/child combo for the season. Around half-time, I figured it out: she wanted to look exactly like her teammates, not like the oddball out.
Thankfully, the season could only go up from there. Despite the Shooting Stars, her team, having lost every game so far, it definitely has. The girls, all under age 8 and all pretty new to soccer, are becoming much more competent with the ball. At least during practice. During a game, they show their skills only when the ball pretty much lands at their feet. If they have to beat an opponent to the ball or--heaven forbid!--actually take the ball away from another player, then well, that's out of their comfort zone. They should be renamed the *Really Nice* Shooting Stars.
At least they're having fun, right? I remind myself as I stand on the sidelines. But I start to talk to the other Stars moms to distract myself from our really nice girls. We semi-joke about making one-on-one, after-school drills at home mandatory. We wonder if the opposing team started playing soccer when they were 2 years old. (Likely. Seriously.) We hope that maybe, just once, a Star will throw an out-of-bounds ball in to another Star, not the other team. We're thrilled when the ball actually gets cleared from out from the Shooting Star's goal area. And a when one of our girls actually gets a shot off--no matter if it goes 10 feet wide--we cheer as if The Stars have just won the World Cup.
I know why we signed her up for soccer--learn life lessons through winning and losing, teamwork, blah, blah, blah--but I am not sure I am cut out for this soccer mom stuff. "It gets you right in here, doesn't it?" asks one dad on the sideline, bumping his chest near his heart. Certainly does.
Obviously, nobody wants their kid to lose, but I didn't anticipate how much I would care about their games. I feel more invested in a random Saturday soccer game than I do for a half-marathon I trained months for. I wince when the other team scores, partly because they scored, but mostly because other parents yell so loudly for their team (just, ahem, as I would do). I take it personally--don't you dare cheer against my daughter!--even though Amelia probably doesn't even notice. Similarly, the disparity in scores--8-0, 7-1--feel so insurmountable to me. Again, the significance barely registers with her. Yesterday, the score was 5-2. "We just needed three more goals, Mom," she told me after the game in a chirpy tone that conveyed she believed that could've easily put it in the net three more times.
Leave it to Thing Two to bring me back to reality. His team, the Black Grizzlies, was scrimmaging against the Texas Orange Giraffes. Their first real game against another team. I was ready to see him get in that bunchball, maybe actually have a kick or two in the right direction.
Instead, he paid attention to the game about half the time, but never touched the ball. The other half? He spent in a quiet corner of the field, practicing his forward somersaults.