The other day I was at a dinner party and the proud mother next to me was going on and on about her twelve-year-old daughter who is an ice-skating super-star. The girl is a whiz, she told me, the next Oksana Baiul (thank goodness, the world needs more anorexic girls whose self-worth depend on their ability to do a quadruple lutz, but I digress).
“She gets up five days a week at 5:00 a.m. to practice and never complains,” the lady said over crab cakes.
“Slacker, what does she do the other two days?” I mumbled.
“Excuse me?” she said.
“I just said, the only thing that would get any of my kids out of bed at 5:00 a.m. would be Krispy Kremes on the front lawn and a fire in the hallway.”
“Oh, heh, heh,” she laughed weakly not sure if she should be amused or give condolences.
It’s true, I will never be the mother of an athletically-gifted child. I’ve seen it coming for some time but I had to face it as an immutable fact last fall when my youngest, the five-year-old came home from the last game of her last (and only) soccer season. “I am never going to play soccer again,” she said as she pulled off the oversized knee socks and tugged at her shin-guards in frustration. She flung her jersey across the kitchen. With this gesture of finality any hope I may have secretly nursed of having a super-star was dashed along with the jersey.
All three of my kids have tried soccer and all three have chosen not to go on. By “tried soccer” what I really mean is all three have whined, complained, and whimpered through a pathetic, tortuous for all, season of chasing a black-and-white ball around a field, killing time waiting for a snack. Not one of them actually touched the ball with his or her foot unless you count the time my eight-year-old fell over the ball. All three have ended their seasons declaring they will never play the game again and all three have concluded that soccer involves “too much running.”
We have also had similar experiences with tee-ball (too boring), flag-football (too rough), floor-hockey (too late in the day), ice hockey (too much equipment), and karate (just too darn hard). I don’t know where my kids get this bad attitude about sports. Their father was a star athlete in his day, playing baseball and football through high school.
Of course the other half of their gene pool is a bit weak in this area. The only “C” I got in high school was in P.E. and when my friends played softball my job was to bring the Diet Coke. I did join an intramural basketball team in college (lured by the promise of beer at the end of each practice) but I had to quit because it conflicted with “Hill Street Blues.” It was before VCR’s so you can see I really had no option.
Now I’m not complaining (wait yes I am) because I’m pretty happy with the fact that my kids go to school, go to church, and each do a little something on the side. But it doesn’t do much for the bragging rights. I mean no one sits next to someone at a dinner party and says, “My eight-year-old attends Brownie meetings fairly regularly.” Or, “My ten-year-old son is interested in musical theater.” No, this is not going to cut it in my circle where some people cannot even fathom the idea of a non-sport playing offspring.
When I told one mom that my middle-child doesn’t play any sports she looked at me incredulously and said, “But what does she do?”
“Umm. You know, she plays. Like kids,” I said. “But she plays really good and I never have to remind her about it."
“But with whom? Aren’t all the other kids in sports?” she asked.
Well no, not really. A few of the kids in the world still hang around the house after school but their moms don’t want to admit it. We’re keeping this shame to ourselves.
So if I’m not a soccer mom anymore what am I? I have the minivan, I have the kids but I don’t have a title. Now I’m not even a demographic. Pollsters are not talking about whom the “Thespian Moms” will support in the next election. I guess I have to go back to being just “a mom”. Which when you think about it, isn’t a bad title after all.
by Judy Zimmerman