The Difficulties with Being a Temporary Sports Mom

I’ve come to acknowledge that I’m a temporary sports mom. A temporary soccer mom. Temporary ice hockey mom. Temporary basketball mom. And this isn’t just because the season ends, but because the boys keep trying activities and then stop. It’s what I want logically; that is, I want them to explore and try out different sports to see which ones might fit them or which ones they develop a passion for and a desire to start improving their skills. I also have a long-term goal of giving them some basics in sports so that later in life they can join in with friends. However, I didn’t realize how draining this temporariness would be on me.

I know my perspective is limited as my boys are still very young and we’ve only just skimmed the surface of some of the most typical sports. There’s still lacrosse and badminton and wrestling and tennis to get to (but not football, no, not football). And yet sometimes, I just wish they would settle (like on basketball as an indoor sport so that I’m not exposed to hours upon hours of rain, sleet or snow!).

baseballIt’s a strange experience. Each time we start a new sport, I ramp up to learn more about it myself. Rereading the “you’ve registered” emails to see if there’s any information, scouring the internet, and then of course, showing up at the sporting goods store to ask tons of questions about what do we need and what don’t we need and to throw away hundreds of dollars. For example, I had no idea that hockey sticks were right or left-handed and that my kid would naturally use one versus the other as determined by swinging at pucks in the aisle over and over. Of course, when the salesman said, “Just take the stick home and cut it down to size,” I thought, “You’re kidding, right? I’m supposed to do that?!?” (Single mom. Townhouse. No circular saw in sight. Thank you, Pop, for doing that!)

Then you show up to the first practice and try to figure out how to put the equipment on the kid. Do soccer shin guards go over the socks or under the socks? Do you wear the cup in baseball practice or just for the games? How in the world do you get these fifteen pieces of hockey gear on? Without fail, I seem to forget at least one piece of equipment each season. First swim meet – no towel. First ice hockey practice – no mouth guard. First soccer game – no water bottle (and umbrella for me!).

soccerThen there’s the need to figure out the social context of each sport. I am constantly trying to find someone who knows about the sport and can give me some pointers. But there’s a whole dynamic to navigate around. There’s the super-competitive families, “My kid’s been playing baseball since he was 3 and of course you do it year-round and go to every clinic and summer tournaments and …” And there’s the never-played-any-sports at all families who are peeling the kids off their bodies and throwing them onto the field, begging them to just try to kick the ball one time. I tend to gravitate to the ones who seem to know at least one or two steps beyond me, either the kid has played a season already or their older kids have done this sport.

It takes a bit of time, but I eventually settle into a “group” of parents to hang with, because the reality is, you’re going to spend an hour or so a week just sitting together at practice and then again on the weekend for a game. You’re going to need to borrow a pair of hockey socks when you left your kids’ set in the dryer. You’re going to want to be able to complain about the rain or make comments about the coaching to someone. You’re going to want to have someone on the journey with you. The problem is, you then form a nice weekly friendship which suddenly ends abruptly when the season ends and you wonder – will I see these new friends again? Will we cross paths in another season or another sport? I realize that I am saddened by the loss of those relationships. Yes, you’ve exchanged numbers so that you can text about whether there’s a practice tonight in the rain or if they might let the coach know you’ll be a tad late (can’t find the bat). Yes, sometimes we connect over facebook or social media, but it’s just not the same as sharing your life weekly for 3-4 months in a row, discussing weekend plans or how your kid is doing in school. I didn’t realize I’d be mourning the loss of the baseball parents or the hockey moms or the soccer gang. That I’d be floating along wondering how such and such kid is doing or explaining to my boy that we might see them again sometime.

I suppose these temporary friendships might be a function of our current exploration of sports, so I wonder if some of my impatience with the boys’ switching around has to do with my desire to maintain some friendships. (It could very well have to do with the ever-growing piles upon piles of “last sport’s, now unused” equipment as well!) On the whole, though, I’ve been delighted to meet so many new people and develop some new longer lasting friendships.

Now if only we could stop switching schools so that I might get to know some of the classmate’s parents!

 

 

You must have texting friends

And you need quite a number of them because you never know who might be too busy at the moment….changing a diaper, engaged in a heated argument with a three-year-old over whether cows have four legs, locked in an endless cardgame of “War” with an eight-year-old, or actually (no way?!?) be engaged in an adult-only activity!  For when a mom is busy – a mom is busy.

But when a mom is hurting or scared or frustrated or feeling so guilty that she knows her kid will need counseling the rest of his adult life, then a mom is hurting or scared or just out of her mind. And at that moment, she needs another woman. (No doubt this applies to dads too – I just can’t speak from that experience 🙂 ).

If you’re a mom today, you must have texting friends (and your texting mom!)….because that’s how we “do it” nowadays. In other times, there were the quilting bees – sitting around an edge of a quilt, needle in hand, sharing life’s moments, passing along wisdom from one generation to the next. There were the book groups – I mean, really – who’s ever been to a book group where you actually read and discussed the book?!? There were the church women’s groups for tea and cakes. And in some developing countries, there’s the long walk to the watering hole with the empty jug and the heart full of the day’s worries.

These days, for me, it’s the text. When my heart is full, I don’t actually want to “talk” to someone….because they might notice my red, wet eyes. They might hear the crack in my voice, the sniffle of my nose. And sometimes I don’t want to talk face to face because I’m in my pajamas. And I’m home alone and the kids are sleeping upstairs. And I’m on the couch with a huge heartache. But when I send my woes out in the void, I need the return “beep” of comfort, wisdom, advice….or sometimes just “I hear you.” “It’s hard.”

Mr. Ornery has taken his namesake to an all new level. He has become that obnoxious, bratty little kid that every parent dreads and every parent wonders, “How did I create this monster?” I react and push back against his hurtful words. I demand he clean up his toys and get to bed. I grump about how “bad” his behavior is….until suddenly it dawns on me that he is speaking from a place of pain. (I’m slow at these realizations, I know, but am trying to get better.) You see, my Mommy job is to explore that pain and figure out what’s really bothering him deep in there – you know, other than the fact that he just started a new school – um, yesterday – and returned to his prior daycare center for the afternoon, and his buddy The Flipper is not around anymore, and it’s no fair that they get to stay “at the new house and he doesn’t.” I could go on and on. texts2He should be angry, sad, stressed, exhausted, tearful. So I finally get control of myself and wrap him in my arms beside his bed. I “secretly” cry enough silent tears that he finally sits up and says, “Why is my hair wet?” We wipe his head. I grab a tissue. He sleeps. I text the void. My friend replies.

I’m not saying that that’s all you have. In fact, you can’t “have” texting friends until you actually make friends and develop enough of a relationship that they can “read” the subtleties of your text. That your friend can “feel” you through time and space and “know” that they need to respond. And your relationships can’t all be built upon texting, either, because that can get too messed up and sometimes mistaken (or auto-corrrected!). You actually do need face time (not on a screen!) and you do need time that you sit beside someone in silence and you really do need hugs (find those hugging friends too!). To survive this thing called parenting, you need all kinds of friends.

But find those women who will be your texting friends. Some day….late at night….when the heart aches….you will find comfort.

Thank you to all my friends (and my mom….who texts!).