A Sports Mom Reflects

A Sports Mom Reflects

I just tallied up how many weekends we’ve had free from a lacrosse commitment, since the beginning of April through July 20th: two–Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.  (And there were opportunities during the Fourth of July, but I refused to even consider them.)

I often feel like perhaps I am an inadequate sports mom.  I don’t know (or wish to know) all the rules.  I don’t really care if we win (although it’s nice); I just want the kids to have fun.  I don’t really want to watch all the games (but I do enjoy the social aspect).

And worst of all–and here’s the admission

that I don’t ever hear other parents really opening up about:  while I do love watching them play, I sometimes resent losing all my free time to their choices.  There is the time to drive them to practice and games,  and the time to drive them back home.  There is the time spent on finding the right equipment, and the time spent on washing the equipment, and even the time spent trying to find a way to get the smell out of the equipment.  (So far: complete failure.)  I want extra credit, too, for getting up extra early because we didn’t get home from the tournament until 10 PM, and the same (evil, foul) uniform must be worn the next day, with a departure time of 7.30 AM.

So I’ve started asking parents at these events just why they do it–why do they sink money into this, and how do they feel about it? Some have kids just starting out… and some are at the hoping-for-some-sort-of-a-scholarship-out-of-this level.  

The most honest admission came from a father in southern Massachusetts.  “I love it,” he said.  “When my older son finished up his season this year, and I realized that we weren’t going to do this anymore, I bawled like a baby.”  His friend even looked at him in a bit of surprise, perhaps because he was surprised by the way this man admitted that to a complete stranger, but his face quickly changed to understanding and agreement.  

“Yes,” he said, “it’s great for them. And, I tell you: it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than lawyer fees!  I know what some of my son’s contemporaries are into and what they are doing.  I am much happier to have him here, and to know exactly what he’s doing.”  

Another father from New Jersey told me, “Look, it wasn’t always this way, this being with kids and going to sports all weekend and all summer long.  It’s that way because WE, the parents, permit it to happen.  And I don’t know if it is always good,” he said with a sigh.  “I mean, where is the family unit when we are all spending so much time shuttling kids to different events?  And the down time?”  But again, he swung back to the same theme.  “But my kid really loves this.  And I love to see him happy, active.”  

It’s not just the sports, of course.  This past weekend, my three-year-old niece preformed in her first dance recital. When the stage curtains opened to the first act of 18 month-olds to three-year-olds–with one even still using a pacifier on the stage–every person in the auditorium let out an audible sigh of “aww”.  This, too, has been much more encompassing then expected: hours, classes, photos, costumes, recital tickets (even for the performers)…. But then we saw her on stage: waving, grinning from ear to ear, doing her steps, and having the time of her young life.  

Other friends tell me about drama, or music, or hobbies, and the hours they spend.  I even realized that “our thing” growing up was showing cows–as it has been for my niece.  That, too, took a lot of time away from our parents’ real priorities.  I remember my father asking: what’s the point of all this?

I was thinking of that at the end of the day, as I refused to let all the items on my to-do list pop back into my head.  The tournament concluded, and we headed back, my two sons, a friend of theirs, and me.  They joked, they stabbed at each other with their sticks, they started the inevitable rehashing of some of the games.  We had to drive past a mall, and they made a strong case for why they needed to stop.  

They cruised around, looking for their things, demanding my attention, weighing the pros and cons of different options, laughing at nothing and everything.  

They were happy.  Just… happy.  

Somewhere between watching their enthusiasm on the field and listening to their chatter, somewhere while watching them take shots on goals and being thrilled about being drenched in sweat, somewhere around choosing the silliest socks and bouncing patio cushions around…. somewhere along the journey, I think I figured out why I “give up” so much of “my” time to go to “their” things.  

I think it might just come back to the same thing I said to the middle child, back when he was three.  

“You know what?  It’s not all about you.”

Jill Stahl Tyler is a parent to three children involved in the local schools–this fall, only at the high school and elementary school levels.  She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment and the Brattleboro Town School Board. Contact her at jill@globalcow.com.

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