But first - a flashback to my own days of Little League Soccer:
Mornings in my hometown are unmistakable. Step out of your door, and a hot tidal wave of Florida sky welcomes your skin to the day. The cicadas sound like an scattered grid of invisible sprinklers. Dew drops the size of beach balls balance on crunchygreen blades of grass.
It is the late 70’s. I’m at a large outdoor rec-plex in a small town in the pandhandle of Florida. Baseball and soccer fields line the horizon, each with racks and racks of lights on top of telephone poles for those delicious night games. (Best let those freshly laid white chalk lines dry out real good. Stepping on them too soon is like crying through mascara: Unsightly. Unfixable. Unforgivable.)
It is the day of the Little League Soccer Championship game.
I am standing in a bee-hive of kids, a team united by matching mustard-yellow soccer shirts. Across the front, the word “Suns" has been ironed on, one letter at a time. We are wiggling and craning our necks to catch a glimpse of our personal soccer ball on a homemade banner.
Coach Marsha had been up pretty late the night before, cutting out circles from white felt, hand-drawing the hexagonal panels onto each ball with a black marker, then finally switching to a different colored marker for the names and numbers. (Mine: 3)
By my bed time, the stack of replicated “size 4 junior soccer balls” had not yet made the leap from dinner table to bedsheet. My memory of Mom’s late night workspace that night includes the intoxicating smell of melty glue sticks, so I’m pretty sure the “Go Suns!” banner had already been affixed to the broom handle by the time I finally dozed off. Even so, there was still much to be done before morning. It was a big job. There had to be at least twenty kids on that team.
On Game Day morning, a standard “test day” breakfast is served (scrambled eggs, bacon, and "Roman Meal" brand wheat toast) shin guards are superstitiously tapped three times with my knuckles, and then it is "go time."
The opposing team is introduced over the unintelligible sound system. Marsha gives someone the queue to press the “play” button, and after a terminally long three seconds, “We Will Rock You” blasts from the speakers of the boom box.
“Boom Boom Chuh. Boom Boom Chuh. Buddy you’re a boy make a big noise playin in the street gonna be a big man some day…”
Coach Marsha and Coach Whathisface each grip an end of the broomstick, and run out on to the field with the "Go Suns!" banner. Theirs is a visual proclamation: Look, everyone. The Contenders have arrived, and will be taking the field, now. Twenty pint-sized Suns bobble behind the proud bedsheet, basking in the glory of such fantastic attention being paid to their Big Time.
I don’t remember winning or losing that game. But I do remember that banner. I do remember knocking elbows with my team mates in anticipation of how crazy intimidated we thought our opponents would be when we dazzled them with our uncalled-for Parade of Awesome.
I remember really enjoying playing youth soccer.
And I sure as heck remember that someone’s Mom always brought snacks for everyone after the game.
Fast Forward to my five year old's soccer game this past weekend in a standard issue Chicago Park District gymnasium.
The Florida dew has been replaced by sweaty gym air.
The crunchygreen grass has been replaced with hardwood floors. There are dozens of printer paper signs taped all around the perimeter of the gym, scolding us for even thinking about letting our street shoes touch the expensive-to-replace floor.
Awesome Soccer Moms have been replaced by women and their daughters wearing matching tights and Uggs having social hours with other Ugg/Tights Moms. There are Soccer Dads wearing fashion backwards jeans and Asics running shoes, holding lattes in unenthusiastic palms that will probably not clap once in the next hour. Older children sit with ipads on their laps, sucking yogurt out of tubes.
No one has brought snacks for the end of the game.
After changing out of our forbootens, and into gym shoes, we find the other team running dribbling drills around orange traffic cones. (who brought orange traffic cones??) (Made up word: forbooten. (n): forbidden boots)
Can I describe for you some of the players on the other team?
There are the mutant DNA super twins with the Alpha dad who was never going anywhere but To The Top. His sons, the Tiger Beats, float an inch off the gym floor, communicating telepathically with the soccer ball.
And these boys are insanely adorable. INSANELY adorable, mmkay? You (okay, okay.. I) want so badly to dislike them for being so freakishly good, and while we’re at it, “hey Mr Alpha, why not have some respect for what the dealio is, here, and just go sign those two up for the Olympics Training Facility in Denver or wherever so our kids might have a shot at enjoying this little league soccer game.” And just when
you I can almost justify resenting a couple of five year old twin boys, one of them gets hit in the face with the ball, and curls up in his Mommy’s lap with his face over his hands, and sobs uncontrollably. And then you I remember he is just a little boy who really enjoys playing soccer with his twin brother and well okay fine.
There is the little girl whose Mommy is totes fine with her daughter wearing short-shorts for the occasion. And, really, why not a bedazzled pair of soccer shorts for a four-year-old? Why not shorts that say “Sassy” on the rear end? (That is my best guess at what it said. I really only could make out “a-s-s” and then that was enough of that.)
There is the kid with the a-hole dad in the stands who thinks that parenting is about harassing their kid into submission via public humiliation. And then he crowdsources his passive aggressive taunts with any other parent in the stands who will still catch his eye.
Now let me describe my kid’s team. (There were only five of them there on Saturday, so this shouldn’t take long.)
There is a four-year-old blonde who is probably too little for this league, but maybe this was all that worked with her parents’ schedule. She is a hilarious little sassafrass who wears black yoga pants, and ties her too-big shirt into a knot at her waist. She often points to her loud-cheering mom, then makes the “zipping” motion across her mouth. And she manages to do this without seeming in any way obnoxious. (For the record, she never plays goalie.)
There are the two unrelated boys who are the exact same little boy. They both have the same shaggy haircut for the same dirty blond colored hair. Both wear blue sweatpants during the game. They both tilt to one side when they run, and have legs that are not yet completely under their control. Neither smiles. And when either of them get the ball, we all breathe a little easier because we know that they are going to kick it well, and in the right direction.
There is Emma, a kick-ass little girl who has no fear. The tallest on the team, she is, by far, our best goalie. She has a light spattering of freckles on the top of her cheeks. She is probably taken to Great Clips for her American Girl Doll standard haircut, and always always always has a bit of a smile on her face. She saves the ball from going in the goal, we cheer, and she melts a little. Delightful.
And then there is my son.
Okay. Let’s see. How do I say this?
Let’s try this: My kid is not good at soccer, y’all.
“He’s only five,” the coach says. “A lot of the other kids are six. That year makes a huge difference.”
If my son had a comic strip thought bubble over his head while playing the game, it would say, “You got that? Please, go ahead. It’s all you. I’m good.”
When G’s leg goes out to kick (at) the ball, 8 times out of 10, he times his kick so that his foot juuuust clears the top of the ball. The ball essentially moves right through him, right under his foot, without so much as being grazed or slowed down by any part of his body.
“Go get the ball, G!” says everyone.
(I’ll give him this: He does jump a lot. He jumps up and down. In one spot. Up and down, up and down, up and down. So that’s cool.)
Then the coach gets the brilliant idea to put him in the goal to give the other, more aggressive players a chance to score even one goal this season. (What is the opposite of undefeated? Totally defeated? That’s our team.)
And what happens to this Mom when he puts her son in as goalie?
Well, that, my friends, is the most excruciating part of this whole experience. That revelation is what inspired this post in the first place. But that's not the post I ended up writing.
Instead, this post has become an homage to the Best Soccer Mom in the Whole World: Marsha. My Mom. Because now I see things from the other side of the soccer bench. That brand of Soccer Mom is not a standard feature in all Moms. Probably not even in me. So, thanks, Mom. I know you are reading this from that same panhandle town. You were amazing.
(Oh, and I'm still writing that other post. Here is the first sentence: Hello. My initials are JA, and I’m a helicopter mom.)
That's my piece, and that's my peace. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my silly words. It means the world. Carry on...
Old Single Mom
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Filed under: Mom-ing