Though, I must confess that I am the one who actively campaigns for my children to pick a team sport, activity, something after the long, painful, cabin-fever-inducing winter. You can also slap me with my righteous self-importance when I announce the vitalness of team sports.
Go ahead, I won’t fight back.
I mean, team sports are good for kids. They learn skills, they gain confidence. They get outside in the sun, and sometimes the rain. Occasionally, they make friends. Mostly, they enjoy themselves, too.
Lying underneath my admittedly arrogant know-it all attitude is an introvert who actually cannot fucking stand having to participate. It’s not the actual activities; it’s the bizarre social experiment that occurs when you lump together a group of kids around the same age and expect their parents to remain in close proximity for the duration. It’s the awkward silence which then turns into forced small talk about the weather, or the dandelions, or the snack schedule. If you listened carefully, you’d be able to hear the stretching and the desperate clawing to find something, anything that might make this hour move forward faster.
Here’s the thing though: I’m super good at faking my extroversion. I’m totally great with saying hi and asking how your day is going when I just want to escape into my own thoughts. I’m good at being nice to your kid even though I’m super annoyed that you’ve completely fucked off with the Cool Moms and have left me to care for your child because she plays with mine. I’m good at offering snacks that weren’t my responsibility to provide but I do it anyway because it’s totally not your kid’s fault that you can’t read emails (as you scroll through your phone). I can create conversation where it doesn’t exist, and despite the fact that I live with chronic Resting Bitch Face, on the soccer pitch, I seem to look friendly and approachable.
But I’m not really. I try to sit separate from the other parents, purposely scattering my gear around my body to create a pseudo-barrier. Yes, I know that makes me a snob. Sometimes I pretend that my phone is far more interesting than it really is. Because, please, please don’t make me engage. Despite this, the other parents sit by me and ask me questions when all I want to do is accept the flowers from one of my children and watch the other play soccer. Really.
On any given night, to my left I have the parent who screams at their child as if he’s in the fucking World Cup. I bite my tongue and say many prayers of thanks for my sunglasses as she tells him to suck it up when he gets slammed in the face with a ball. On the right, I have the mom who wants to tell me how she knows the coach, and how her kid has his own iPad, and that he eats a lot, and she doesn’t even know why she puts him in soccer because he’s awful at it.
Inside I’m screaming, “GO THE FUCK AWAY, PEOPLE.”
Outside, I’m nodding and likely doing that fake smile my husband understands as, “Kill me now.” I’m cheering over their words, for their kids, hoping that my “Good try!” is louder than FIFA Mom’s screams of terror. I want to remind them all that we don’t even keep score at this level, but I don’t, because I’ve done it before and I really hate repeating myself to grown-ups. I’m offering those aforementioned snacks to other tiny children and smiling as I’m mocked for my preparedness. I bite my tongue when they say things about the “terrible parenting” of a player because I literally can’t even when two seconds ago this person was telling their kid to stop acting like a girl and a baby.
For the entire duration of the game, every week, it’s the same. Sometimes, I find a way to jump out of the area I’m in. Sometimes, my daughter grabs my hand as she demands to use the bathroom. Of course, I act like it’s a bit of a trial to make to trek a million miles off the field to the disgusting port-a-potties, but the truth is, I want to dance in the field overrun with dandelions. It’s an ironic relief – albeit smelly escape – from the verbal diarrhea on the sidelines. Occasionally, my husband makes it in time to watch from the sidelines, and he’s a welcome, wonderful buffer. I’m a Stage Five clinger when he makes it to the game, and I have no shame admitting that.
When the kids slap good game, I calmly collect our things. I never want to look too eager. I remind the kids to gather their gear, then ask the coaches if they need any help packing up. As they respond that they are just fine, I follow my kids off the field, when someone shouts in my direction,
“See you next week, Danielle!”
Oh, fucking hell.