Living With My Kids Is Like Living With Drunk Rugby Players
You know how drunk people can be really annoying, especially if you’re the sober one? Having kids is like that too. Either you’re not a parent and have lost all patience and understanding for the existence of children, or you’re the parent looking upon the humans you are trying to raise as if they are the drunken fools and you are the sober designated driver.
Sometimes parents actually are drinking while watching their children fling themselves off of countertops, but in my case, I’m always sober because I have been in recovery for three and a half years. Before my relationship with alcohol went from questionable to toxic with shame cycling and lying, I lived some of the best experiences of my life that prepared me for the most challenging moments of parenting. I played rugby for 10 years, and when I tell you that living with my kids is like living with the drunk rugby players I used to surround myself with, I’m not kidding.
The Emotional Noise
Both my kids and drunk (though they don’t even need to be but most are) rugby players are loud, jolly, and always singing … until someone is suddenly crying. Rugby comes with its own jukebox of songs — think sleepaway camp or Bible School but with more swearing and references to sex — and kids come with Alexa, which will also plays songs about sex and swearing now that I think about it. Anyway … the sound of music is a constant hum behind whatever else is happening, and when people get louder instead of shutting up, the music goes up. There are pauses to deal with drama and tears, but the reason for such emotion is never clear, and the question to both joy and agony is the same: Is this an emotional or physical outburst? No matter the answer, the best thing to do is to offer water and a snack. This continues until someone pulls the plug on the music and sends everyone to bed.
I spent many Saturdays perfecting my performance during Butt Quarters in dirty bars. The game is played like this: form two teams with the same number of people on each side. Place a quarter between your butt cheeks, walk it across the bar, and then unclench to drop the quarter into a pint of beer. Once you drink the beer, replace it with another pint and then wave your teammate to go so they can perform the task. It’s a fun post-match relay between the home and away teams and is a glaring example of hypocrisy when I ask my children to keep their hands out of their pants.
Once, while at a playgroup in an old church, my then toddler twins found Goldfish crackers on the floor and started to eat them. A parent was appalled when she watched me inspect the crackers and then let my kids carry on. The food wasn’t wet or covered in hair. Most rugby players have consumed beer from a dirty cleat or from a bucket of beer which was first poured over someone’s ass crack. The Goldfish were fine. So was the $7 hotdog I wiped with a napkin and gave back to my child when she dropped it on the floor of a rest stop somewhere in upstate New York.
The Bodily Fluids
My rugby kit included toilet paper and plastic bags because you just never knew when shitting on the side of the road was going to be your best bet. I also carried an extra pair of underwear or pants too, just in case I peed on myself while squatting in the woods. The diaper bag carried wipes instead of toilet paper, but my kids regularly needed to use the bathroom when nary a bathroom was in sight, and you can be sure I was prepared.
Snot rockets, bloody noses, spitting, vomiting, and puddles of I don’t want to know on the floor … where do rugby players end and children begin?
Managing 15-30 different personalities on one team allows you to know what kind of reward/punishment system works in terms of consequences for behavior and attitude. Some teammates crumbled under even the slightest criticism while others wanted nothing to do with sugar-coating anything. Some people preferred to be asked versus told what to do, and others just did whatever the fuck they wanted on their own time because that’s just who they are. Some players aren’t coachable, and like my pediatrician tells me regarding my child who gives me the most headaches: Some kids are just harder than others. I have learned, though far from perfected the practice of it, the art of knowing what my kids need in both competitive and social settings based on their personalities. I don’t put my cheating and obnoxious 10-year-old in the sin bin under goal posts, but she has been removed from board games for being a sore loser and a brat.
The Road Trips
Road trips with rugby players prepared me for every scenario when traveling with kids. First of all, no one is ever on time, because someone forgot their special blanket or pillow. Someone is too hot or too cold. Snacks, drinks, and bathroom breaks cycle onto each other so that one always leads to the other — though with rugby players, stopping for the necessities means stopping at liquor stores, which means more peeing on the side of the road. No one can agree on the music and someone will decide to bring up past grievances to hash out while escape is impossible. And in both parenting and rugby road trips, the mess and smells are unforgiving, but as long as we arrive safely, the journey was a success.
I watched one child free fall onto the couch while another shot Nerf bullets at her; my third child spun in circles on her hover board and asked Alexa to repeat her favorite song for the 17th time, and I was instantly sorry for annoying any non-rugby players who happened across my teammates and me when we were doing similar shit. Play rugby, they said. Have kids, they said. I had no idea the two would be so similar.