Have I Really Become a “Soccer Mom”?!

We missed the deadlines for A to join Little League Baseball this past spring, and frankly I was glad. We have a country house that needs a lot of work, particularly in the spring when gardens need to be cleared as the explosion of green begins. My husband J works on Sundays, so we only have one full day of the weekend to focus.

So I balked. Little League would kill Saturdays, which in turn would kill  the whole weekend. And A is only 6. Does he really need Little League at age 6? J, whose Little League years hold some of his best childhood memories, insists yes. It's good for him to play games with a team and for him to bond with teammates. I don't disagree, but can't he can bond with pals upstate by catching frogs and playing wiffle ball? I try to put it aside, as this can be discussed next year, but J tosses out the final pitch: "You wanted to be a soccer mom!"  

What? A soccer mom! I never signed up to be a soccer mom; you know the stereotype: a mini-van wielding mother who shuttles her kids to sports events constantly. Where did that term come from anyway? Well it turns out, "soccer mom" came into widespread use during the 1996 elections — when a columnist said candidate Bill Clinton was courting soccer moms — overburdened, middle-class suburban working moms. 

Since then, it's become shorthand for moms who are helicopter parents and take their kids to games, birthday parties, and play dates willy nilly. 

There I was, however, on a Monday after school, at a playground in Brooklyn watching A run through soccer drills with his new league. The first day was cool and breezy, and I and some other moms (one with a two-month-old boy), talked about some mom stuff (How much does the tooth fairy pay?; What are we doing for summer camp?) and passed around the baby. But mostly we watched the game and avoided getting hit by soccer balls.

Most of the Mondays throughout the spring were the same — although the weather got nicer by the week. And the boys and girls on the field had huge grins (and lots of focus) the entire 50 minutes, as coaches coached and high-fived them. During one practice, A faced off against another boy and kept stealing the ball. At the end of this drill, the other boy asked, "How many points did you get?" "I got 11," says A. "I got zero," says the other, but neither really cared about scoring. It's just fun.

After each practice, A (happy but hungry and exhausted) and I grab dinner (Thai! Pizza! Ethiopian!) and walk home. It's a school night treat for both of us. But still, me — a soccer mom? No way!

For his half birthday this year, I suggested to J that we get him soccer goals for upstate. I expected them to be kids-sized portable ones, similar to the ones he uses at practice, but instead J bought a nearly regulation size soccer goal. They erected it at the end of the yard, in front of a row of daffodils. I guiltily did the math in my head, thinking, This will last about 10 years. I can handle 10 years. He now has the duds as well: "A British colleague gave him a bright yellow jersey for a club team in England called Coventry City, which A immediately put on. Even though the huge goal clouded my Martha Stewart vision of our home, I was thrilled when they got out there with their balls, and the kicking, dribbling, and scoring began. 

And now it's World Cup season. After A's final soccer league game, all the kids, coaches, and parents went to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Gowanus, Brooklyn, to watch the USA face of with Ghana, the team's first appearance in the World Cup. All the kindergarteners and first and second graders were mesmerized for a while, until they decided that flying paper airplanes outdoors was more fun. Still, A certainly has World Cup fever — his eyes were glued to the USA-Portugal game — and now we all discuss the games and players at breakfast. We have plans to watch USA play Germany on the last day of school, a fortuitous half-day. 

Unexpectedly, we got a little report from his coach. Among other things, it says, "A has all of the mental and physical tools to become a great player." Sure, the coach probably says that to all the parents to encourage them, but it made both J and me proud and excited to be…soccer parents.