One of the most rewarding, time consuming and often frustrating roles of a parent is that of the sports mom or dad. There are many types of sports moms; soccer moms, dance moms, hockey moms, baseball moms. It is wonderful to have your child as a part of a team. They make friends, we parents make friends and sports events are a fun gathering. Not to mention the gratification of watching your child be active and healthy. What could be wrong with that? In sports lingo, it is a win, win situation.
When my kids were young they had so much enthusiasm for sports. Baseball, volleyball, swimming, racquetball. They were so proud of their uniforms and so proud to be part of a team. There were schedules and tournaments, travel all over the city and beyond. Parents get adept at packing food, extra clothes, water and bandages to carry from destination to destination. It’s a nomadic life. We do it so our kids can develop their inner athlete. We secretly have dreams for them. Maybe they have that special something that means they are destined for a future in sport. And not only sport. Dance. Intellectual competitions. Talent shows. It was all so wonderful to watch them grow and create and have moments of inspiration.
Sports parents often get a bad rap. “Stage mom” sounds derogatory. But sport parenting is without a doubt a passionate role to play. Sometimes we are at our best and sometimes at our worst. They are our children and it’s personal. When my son was a young teen he became a baseball umpire one summer for a junior league. He loved the job and he took it very seriously, making calls that he felt were fair and justified. There were usually parents who did not agree. I would cringe at times to hear how they yelled at him. They often forgot he was just a kid himself.
Playing sports was fun but the older they got, the more organized the sport, and the competition became fierce. Suddenly things were very serious. It wasn’t a game anymore. It was a college scholarship, it was a possible career. If your child was not the strongest player in the group, the shunning began. The coaches rarely played them, other team members formed cliques. As a parent I was angered by this injustice and encouraged my children to find alternate sports. My daughter loved to swim. My son excelled at racquetball. Often I had to control my own feelings when my child was overlooked for their efforts. Me sitting alone on a bleacher in front of a racquetball court watching my 12 year old son beat the pants off a guy twice his age does not really constitute a spectator sport. If I can dare to use the pun, playing team sports for them was delegated to the sidelines.
Sadly that is the fate of the majority of children who play childhood sports. I admire Michelle Obama for her efforts to keep kids moving and encouraging healthy food. Sports should be enjoyed at every level. But childhood should also be the time to be free and explore. Despite having a pretty mean free throw arm at age 4, my son’s true passion became music. My daughter’s affinity with water is still with her but her volunteer work with cats at the local shelter took more of her time. Growth has so many outlets. Life is metamorphosis.
I have friends who are surprised that I love watching sports as I do. They see me as a book club/Downton Abbey kind of gal and so I am. But watching my favorite QB Russell Wilson throw a touchdown pass is as electric to me as watching an art house film performance worthy of an Oscar. Why must we categorize ourselves as one thing or another?
I welcomed the constant change in my children’s interests. It meant they were exploring. It meant they were alive and could embrace so many facets of life. I was happy to be a Sports Mom, a Dance Mom, a Music Mom. Or mostly, just a mom. There to bandage their bruises and their hurt feelings. There to cheer them on whatever endeavor they decided to try. There to pack the car and drive to that next practice or concert or volunteer work. There is a endless source of pride to see that they have always been team players; joyous winners and gracious losers. I have heard it said that life itself is a sport that we all play. If that is true then I believe my children have earned the highest accolades in how they have played it so far. And I am so ready for their next game.