Just that one glance brought back an overwhelming sense of sadness. Early yesterday morning, on my way to teach my Jazzercise class, I drove past a soccer field filled with the hustle and bustle of multiple youth soccer games being played simultaneously. I can’t even begin to count the number of hours I spent driving Austin or Callie to and from soccer or hockey, or baseball, or basketball practices and games when they (we) were younger. It all started over nineteen years ago and lasted for thirteen of those years, beginning with Austin when he was just five years old and ending when Callie was in high school and could drive herself to practices.
It was not always joyful. As a single mom, juggling work and two children who needed to get to different places at the same time was challenging. This meant that we would not always be on time, or really cutting it close to be on time, which was a cause of high stress for both of my children. Part of the reason we would be running late was because I always needed to pack a bag of work to take with me. I was the mom who sat in the bleachers or in my car writing grants, grading papers, writing lesson plans or trying to return a hundred phone calls while my children ran, sweated and honed their skills in whichever sport they were in at the time. Walking to the car, Callie often called me out at the end of a game. “Mom, did you even watch ANY of the game?” “Did you SEE my goal(s)?” Well, actually, I did…most of the time. As they got older, travel was required and very expensive (beyond my budget) over night weekend tournaments seemed never-ending. Thank goodness for other parents, carpooling and my children’s willingness to drive or stay with other families as needed.
I was prouder than proud of both of my children as I watched them, listened to other parents and coaches compliment them. I loved listening to them in the car or over dinner telling stories about themselves, the games, teammates, or coaches. They were both amazing athletes to watch. I say this not because they are my children, but because it is true. Austin was not only talented, but also such a leader as goalie or any other position he was asked to play. Callie was the talk of the bleachers at home and away games. Her natural ability to move quickly and her passion for playing both hockey and soccer was evident to any spectator. Many times I would not identify myself as her mom, as I listened to fans ooh and ahhh over her while sitting in the bleachers. Only at the end of the game would I quietly and proudly thank them on her behalf for the compliments about her that had poured out of them throughout the game. Callie played hockey in a male dominated league, so her incredible abilities and her long pony tail (dead giveaway that she was a girl) were often the topic of conversations in the bleachers. Secretly, “That’s my girl!” played over and over inside my head, but I never let on in front of them.
Both Austin and Callie were extremely critical of themselves. It didn’t seem to matter that I would tell them what I noticed them doing well, or what I heard others saying about them during the game, they still beat themselves up pretty regularly. Yet, I knew that it was important to be there for them. The ups and downs of competing on team sports required a sturdy suit of armor, even when they were very young. I took my job as “soccer mom” very seriously, but not quite the way I watched many other parents take it on. (*note: I was a hockey mom for many years with Callie too, but Sarah Palin totally ruined that term for me, so I am sticking with soccer mom for now). I truly did not care if they won or lost. This attitude of mine was frustrating to both of them. As a matter of fact, sometimes I hoped they would lose so they could learn how to lose. Okay, sometimes I hoped they would lose so that the season would end sooner, but that does not belong in this blog entry. I wanted them to do their personal best and to learn to have confidence in themselves. I wanted them to have fun. (other parents sometimes lost that notion during the games)
My main job, as I saw it, was being there for them. Listening. Watching (between grading papers). Making sure they had water, Gatorade and snacks for the ride home. Keeping bandaids, towels and extra t-shirts in the car. I guess I was part coach and part manager.
As I drove past the soccer field yesterday, I had a twinge of sadness because it seemed like that part of my life was such a long time ago. All of the hours spent learning, laughing, and arguing together was gone. Just like that. I was even Callie’s soccer coach at the YMCA when she was four years old. The term “coach” is pushing it a little I suppose. Mostly I made sure they were running in the right direction toward our goal. But I was there. Almost every.single.game.
I thought about my unexpected sadness yesterday quite a bit until I realized that while I am not with my children every day or driving them to practices and games, I continue to do my job. We may not be physically in the same place any more, but I am here for them. I still love listening to them. I still stop what I am doing if they call or text. I even still send snacks to them. But most of all, I still believe in them and I am prouder than proud of both of them. I guess I will always be their soccer mom.