Long before I ever became a soccer mom, I had a definite impression of what one probably looked like. I pictured a couple of versions: one was a sporty, sweat-wicking-fabric-wearing, ponytailed former athlete who yelled at the coaches and refs and screamed pointers at her kid from the sidelines. The other wore the bad kind of mom jeans and knitted baby blankets while sitting on top of a cooler she'd packed full of healthy snacks and waters for the whole team. I related to neither of these women.
But starting this Spring, my 6-year-old daughter started talking about how she wanted to join a soccer team. Since she's as fickle about her activities as she is her moods, I took her new interest with a grain of salt. But she persisted, probably because all her neighborhood girl buddies play on the same team and my girl didn't like feeling left out.
Since I, too, like to latch on to any activity my neighbors are already involved in (hello, carpool), I signed her up. A few weeks later, she was officially registered with our local soccer association and placed on a team called the Caterpillars (Has a less intimidating team name ever been dreamed up? Oh, wait; they're scheduled to play against the Fireflies next week.) along with her friends.
After making three trips to a sporting goods store to buy the required cleats, shin guards, size-three ball, soccer shorts, and sport socks, she was ready to roll. The first game marked exactly the second time she'd ever played soccer — the first time was at a practice the night before — and as you can imagine, it was pretty much a sh*tshow. She had no idea what she was doing, I was worried she might pass out from running for longer than I'd ever witnessed, and thanks to the 6-year-old future Mia Hamm on the other team, the Caterpillars were defeated five to two.
Yet our entire family had a fantastic time. It was a beautiful morning, and we were outside enjoying it instead of watching cartoons in our pajamas. My 3-year-old son was running around with other team siblings playing hide and seek (though hard to do in an open field) and kicking spare soccer balls around. My husband, not a big sports guy, was surprisingly engaged in our daughter's play, mentally taking notes on what skills they should practice in our backyard and comparing game notes with the other dads. And I was happily chatting with the fellow moms, not one of whom was wearing embarrassing jeans or seemed to be living out her former sports dreams vicariously through her daughter. There was a mom with a cooler full of team snacks, but she was assigned the duty, and at any rate, she seemed pretty cool, too.
We all left the field an hour later with big smiles on our faces, feeling bonded together over finding something our whole family enjoyed, and I realized that there was something to this whole soccer-parent thing. Fresh air, exercise, family time, friends, snacks, and two happy kids? For that, I'd take on any stereotype.