I live in Suburbia. Deep Suburbia. You can’t walk ten feet without running smack into a minivan or tripping on a jogging stroller. And if you keep on going, you are certain to step on an empty cup that once held a pumpkin spice latte.
When you live in the suburbs, you learn to play by certain rules. Don’t get on the wrong side of the PTA, for example. Tip your baristas. Be a Friend of the Library. Pick up your dog poop. Keep the HOA happy. Take down your Christmas lights before Valentine’s Day. Recycle.
Additionally, as a part of the Official Suburbia Rulebook, families must do two things on the weekends: make Costco runs and participate in organized sports. Saturday and Sunday, from September through June, the school fields and gyms around my home virtually buzz with activity. Morning and night; rain or shine; bitterly cold or agonizingly hot. When the zombie apocalypse comes, the parents in my town will still spend their weekends cutting orange wedges, toting umbrellas and coolers, and rolling dirty shin guards onto the legs of their progeny. They will concede to current events enough to bat away encroaching monsters with little Carter’s lacrosse stick, but they would never let a few diseased undead stop a tournament. Carter’s team actually has a chance to go to Regionals this year!
If you live in the Suburbs, your kids do sports. It’s right there in the sacred Rulebook, along with thou shalt not leave your trash cans out overnight. And as with the laws of the Medes and the Persians, this cannot be changed, lest you invoke the pity and condemnation of the community.
My kids don’t do sports, by the way.
Up until now, I have felt deep shame about this infraction. Sheepishly, and with just the right note of apology in my voice, I have told people that we abstain because two of our three kids are medically-fragile, and we don’t have a lot of bandwidth for extra activities. That explanation has the benefits both of being true and helping me avoid the judgment of my peers. But it’s not the whole story. The full truth is both simpler and more complex.
The truth. Hoo boy.
The truth is…the truth is that my kids don’t do sports because I don’t want them to. Sorry, I panicked there. I’ll try to say that more slowly and a little more clearly: I…don’t…want…them…to.
I can see you there, reaching for your phone to dial social services. But please hear me out. I’m not a bad person. I make sure my kids eat a balanced diet; there are fruits AND vegetables! I read to them and limit screen time. I practice active listening and try to teach empathy. My kids go to Sunday School, and I even get them there on time, more or less. I love my kids. I love my life. I love the Suburbs.
You know what I don’t love?
Sports. Feeling too busy. Being cold and/or wet. Rushing from one place to another. Standing in the mud. Sports. Watching anything for more than 30 minutes. Sunburn. Bug bites. Yelling parents. Being bored. Sports. Being anxious. Entertaining babies that cannot walk yet without setting them down in grass soaked with dog pee and dad-spit. Capri Suns. Sports.
Weekdays are for work, school, and medical appointments. Weeknights are for homework and family snuggles and American Ninja Warrior. Weekends are for literally everything else life has to offer. And for me, that does not include standing in the rain watching something I don’t care about. No matter how good of an experience it may be for my child.
I know all the arguments for team sports, and I believe them. Playing soccer or quidditch or whatever on a team undoubtedly does teach cooperation and good sportsmanship. It’s a great outlet for energy and a reliable vehicle for exercise. No question. Most kids think sports are fun, and they have a good time with their friends. There’s nothing inherently wrong with sports for children, and I would never discourage anyone else from participating in them.
I just don’t want to do it. And I’m done apologizing for it. No more excuses. Let me come clean, right now, in front of God and Oprah and everyone:
I have enough time to take my kids to sports.
I have enough money to pay for registration fees.
My kids are healthy enough to participate in most recreational sports.
My kids would really enjoy playing on a team.
But I don’t want to do it. It’s that simple.
I’m allowed to not want to spend my weekends watching sports. I’m allowed to keep my children from an activity that would be potentially enriching. I’m allowed to underschedule my life. And most importantly, I’m allowed to be selfish with my time. If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, after all.
I’m tired of being ashamed. It’s time to rewrite the Rulebook. My family opts out of weekend sports. And all I ask is that you don’t judge me. At least, not openly. If you want, you can whisper about me with all the other moms and dads as you stand underneath your dripping umbrella and watch game four of the lacrosse tournament. I don’t mind. I wish you a winning season. May your shin guards be dry and your orange wedges never pithy.
But if it’s all the same to you — and even if it’s not — this Suburbanite will be over here eating donuts and reading on the couch. And you know what? I think I’m finally ready to be okay with that.