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Confessions of a Failed Soccer Mom

November 5, 2011

I have a confession.

Come a little closer. I don’t want to be too loud.

I’m a soccer mom failure.

I hate soccer practice.

I work, come home, make dinner, feed the kids, grab Joseph’s gear, throw the dishes in the dishwasher, throw the kids in the car, remember to grab water, sweaters, and a snack for Elizabeth who hates to be rushed through dinner. I race to the soccer fields where I trek three city blocks to his practice site. I sit in the cold evening air going over my mental list of what still needs to be done at home before I can relax. I smile and make small talk with very nice women while worrying that they’ll see through the facade.

They talk about their son who kicked a soccer ball at two. He’s bound for the World Cup, that one. They talk about their daughter who can run so fast, no one can catch her. She’ll be on the women’s Olympic team. They nod their heads and talk about heights and weight and skill levels. I look at the field, trying to see what they see. The World Cup boy is plucking dandelions. The Olympic girl is turning cartwheels. I keep my mouth shut.

They know the rules of the game. Both the one on the field and the one in the stands.

I don’t.

I smile cheerfully as the team mom talks to me about snacks – no peanuts, no HFCS, please make sure any fruit is sliced. I write a check for the banner that will be waved in the stands while thinking how many gallons of milk that same money would buy. I watch as Joseph runs around the field, kicking the ball, skipping, having a great time and feel a twinge of guilt for not enjoying the evening.

I hold a squirming Elizabeth who can’t be trusted not to run onto the field and join her “bruddah”. I queue up a movie for her on my iPhone and ignore the looks of the other moms as they roll soccer balls towards their toddlers.

Practice ends and I wrangle an excited Joseph and tired Elizabeth home where I coerce them into the shower and rush to lay out their pajamas and toothbrushes. We do a quick dry off and then it’s into bed. “Sorry, baby. No time for stories tonight. It’s almost an hour past your bedtime.”

I hate soccer games.

I hate getting up in the morning and knowing that whatever needs to be done must be done either before 10:30 or after 12:30, but wait. Elizabeth’s nap is at 1:00 and she won’t be waking up until 3:00 and where did my Saturday suddenly go?

I go to the field with a cooler of ice water, cold wet towels, and snacks for Elizabeth. I slather sunblock on both kids and stare fretfully at the unshaded field. The temperatures inch towards 100 and I worry about Joseph running around the field with his heavy socks, his padding, his non-cotton shirt and his bared head.

I set up chairs next to the other parents, exchanging hellos and waves. I make Elizabeth sit in the shade of my chair and realize I forgot my own sunblock. I wait for the game to begin as the skin on my arms slowly bakes.

The game starts and I smile as I see Joseph running around the field, kicking the ball. The parents around me erupt in roars of pleasure and groans when a player kicks the ball into the wrong goal. They chant the players names and yell out numbers. I wonder how they can keep track of all the kids. I can barely remember what number Joseph is. He’s 10. No. Wait. 12. No. That’s not right. I spy him running down the field. He’s 9.

When the water break arrives, I burst into action. I put the cold, wet towel on Joseph’s head, his face glowing an uncomfortable red. Around me, parents are patting backs and giving tips. “Good job,” I hear myself say as I frown over the heat radiating form his body.

As the kids run back onto the field, I hear the parents talking. It’s obvious that our team is superior to that other team, the ones wearing green shirts.

I look at the other team’s cheering section and see a mirror image of ours – grandparents sitting in folding chairs, younger siblings playing in the grass, moms and dads leaping and running along the sidelines, their cheers echoing across the field.

But I don’t see me.

It’s jarring to realize that I’m the only parent at the game who doesn’t see the benefit of youth sports at such a young age. I’ve asked the question of friends and watch the looks of shock on their faces. It teaches teamwork, coordination, and is great exercise. It’s what you do.

“Isn’t it interesting,” I muse, looking at field after field of colorful shirts, “how popular soccer is to the elementary school child and how unpopular soccer is to the general American public?”

Looks of confusion cross the faces of the mother next to me. I shrug and smile, “Is he yours?” I point towards a sturdy boy with a shock of blond hair falling across his forehead. The dangerous moment passes.

I see Joseph run down the field. He has the ball. He kicks it, runs, kicks it, runs, and then pulls his leg back and, with a final kick, scores a goal. If we were keeping score.

Around me, the parents cheer. I clap my hands and yell good job. The mom next to me leans over and tells me how great Joseph is. I nod and agree. He is a great kid.

But not just because he can kick a ball into a net.

Mandy Dawson is a newly single mother of two juggling work, kids, and writing. When she’s not dodging soccerballs and cutting orange slices, she can be found writing at www.inmandyland.com..

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