Posted tagged ‘soccer moms’

Guilty….as charged

June 14, 2011

Its coming back for a summer run. I just saw the ad. All new episodes of ‘Toddlers and Tiaras.’ Its not exactly a guilty pleasure but if the television is on, I can’t help but watch it. All those adorable little babies, glitzed and glimmered up with sequins and sparkles and lace and ruffles and make up. And hairspray. LOTS of hair spray.

Can’t help but be sucked into the tales of triumphs and woes as chubby little faces (and knees) prance and dance their way across mini stages in converted hotel meeting rooms. Curled hair pieces swirl around their faces as they shake shoulders and hips (can they really be called ‘hips’ at ages three or four or five?) and bat heavily made up eyelashes – sometimes false ones at that – while very serious judges make notations about ‘personality‘ and ‘stage presence.’

The best part for me though, is watching the moms and the dads. They are occasionally joined by aunties and the grandmas and do most of the actual ‘work.’ They spend hours at second jobs to pay for tiny dresses that cost in the hundreds and thousands of dollars. They spend hours sewing on sequins to add more sparkle, hours making props and set pieces, more hours developing and practicing ‘routines’ or driving their children to professional pageant choreographers, and even more hours curling and spraying and applying makeup and dressing and undressing their babies. They spend weekends in out of town hotels and motels for competitions. And they seem to spend an enormous amount of time cajoling their little princesses through spray tan sessions and make up sessions and dress fittings and boring waits for their turn on stage. They can be seen dancing through the rehearsed routines in the audience, roiling with misery – and anger – if their kid doesn’t perform well, cheering heartily if they do and sometimes just sighing in resignation.

For what?

Enough trophies to fill rooms and tiaras for every day of the week. And chest ribbons that proclaim their child ‘Teeny Tiny Littlest Miss Chockhaven Cheese Cake of Somewhere in the Sticks.’

SO very weird.

MY family would never be involved in something like that. No siree. My princess is almost sixteen and I would LOVE it if she would glitz it up a bit. A little makeup now and then. Curling iron and hairspray? No such luck. She is a sports girl and, like my son, plays soccer. Their lives are all about soccer cleats and the comfort of athletic shorts and sunscreen and water bottles filled with athletic enhancing liquids for replenishment. We have spent hundreds – no… thousands – of dollars on cleats, indoor turf shoes, shin guards, goalie gloves, jerseys, shorts, socks and soccer balls of every size and color over the years. We have driven miles and miles for games and tournaments in every kind of weather you can imagine. We have sliced an insurmountable number of oranges at 5 am because they would be needed at a far away game site at 11:30. We have scolded refs from the side lines and been scolded by refs on the sidelines. We have pondered the intricate processes of removing black mud and green grass stains from white shorts and socks and drying them….sometimes at 2 am in a hotel sink because they ‘forgot’ to pack the spare pair. We have visited countless emergency rooms. We have sought last minute sources for peanuts and protein snacks to hold our athletes until the next meal. We have sought out the best affordable coaches and clubs available in our area. And paid for them.

We have spent weekends in hotels and motels for out of town tournaments. We have shivered and sweat and watched from the sidelines, roiling in misery – and anger – if the team doesn’t perform well, cheering heartily if they do and sometimes just sighing in resignation.

For what?

Enough trophies to cover a dresser top and bookshelf. And tee shirts that proclaim our child the champion of ‘The Catfish Cantaloupe Soccer Tournament of Somewhere in the Sticks.’

So very……not weird?

Thinking back to my daughter’s minute long obsession with horses and the horse competition world (where she won two blue ribbons!)….and her ice skating period…..and her gymnastic period…. I know that there are families that spend similar amounts of money and time with those sports. One step-daughter is just beginning in the dance realm with her twins while the other has been chasing her newly minted teenaged son in the football and baseball circles for years. And he is also dabbling with an electric guitar. A close friend has a daughter who just started a cheerleading ‘career.’ She is going to be in first grade next fall. Another friend just saw her youngest of five sign with a college for a swimming scholarship…..something all of her children did before high school graduation. Another friend has a daughter that has been playing guitar and writing music with an up and coming – really hot – local pop/rock band for 4 or 5 years now. She is fifteen.

Parents want their children to excel in what they love to do. There is nothing wrong with that. We want them to be busy. We want them to have a head start on things. At least that’s what I have observed. We want them to have the very best training they can possibly get for sports…music….dance…..and pageants. But I think its gotten a little crazy. Parents are starting their babies in these things. (Little Kickers had a soccer program for 18 month olds at one time.) And those skills are being developed WAY earlier than they were in my day. And focused on. And driven. Gotta keep all those little kiddos busy doing….something. And why?

These days, you are very lucky if you can get on an area middle school sports team without some sort of prior training or experience. Middle school! And if they want to stay with a varsity sport in high school, it is highly recommended that they continue playing that sport – or training for that sport – in the off season. Most sports, as well as dance and music, require year round training these days. Sometimes I wish we could go back and rethink things a bit. Rethink….childhood.

When I was in elementary school, my first experience with competition was through softball. Each area school had a baseball team with parent coaches. If you were lucky, you could field a team for 4th, 5th AND 6th grade. Each school played the others for two games – one away and one at your home field. Then we started playing at a community field….which was close to a dairy with an ice cream counter. Most teams were allowed ice cream only if they won. When my mom coached our school team, she collected enough money so we would get an ice cream cone regardless. To her, and ultimately us – her team – it was all about having a good time playing the game.

She was very forward thinking….my Mom.

My son started playing soccer when he was four and my daughter, when she was seven. We kind of….evolved…..into the club soccer scene. Going to bigger and better and more expensive is something that my husband and I have been at odds with quite a lot. Many times. We want the same thing for our kids that every parent wants, I think. We want them to have fun. We want them to excel. We want them to have a healthy self esteem. We want them to have friends with common interests. We want them to be healthy. We want them to achieve what they can with the gifts that they have. We want them to know how to deal with success….as well as loss. And it can be so very intense.

But, I would like to think that I’m like my Mom. And I think I have been relatively successful in that. Earlier this year my daughter wrote an essay for her freshman English class. She listed each of her soccer coaches and the things that she learned from them. She said that she had learned to love the game and to play well. She ended her essay with the line…..’my Dad wants me to be the best that I can be and my Mom just wants me to have fun.’ And she is so right.

And that is so very…….not weird.

However, I am pondering the possibility of a reality show – ‘The Soccer Moms of Catfish Cantalope Somewhere in the Sticks.’ It has a certain….ring….to it. And I know we could produce the necessary drama…..and comedy.

That’s just how we Soccer Moms are.

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Bullies

September 26, 2009

     Every once in a while something pops up in my life that I seriously regret.  Some memory of something that makes me feel like I made a wrong choice.  A baaaad decision.  And I begin to think about the long range consequences.   And what kind of an effect that decision will have.

     I have been told that I think too much.

     The Prince has been playing soccer since he was five.  That’s 10 years now of soccer skills and listening to coaches and plying his team working skills with other kids his own age.  And he is very good at what he does.  He has superb skills.  He has leadership ability.  He knows how to be part of a team and how to carry his own.  He can make others listen to him most of the time.  The problem is, he doesn’t believe that about himself.  And that attitude all comes down to a bully situation.  I think. 

     When the Prince was going into third grade, we made the decision not to have him move from the recreational league to the travel league with most of his team.  The travel team league would mean year round practices and games, farther out of town games and tournaments and more intensive coaching.  We felt that the year round, intense sport situation would conflict with his academics at school.  We wanted him to still have fun with the game but  be able to become serious about reading and homework and projects.  It was a parental decision.

     While I don’t regret that decision, I seriously regret the place that it plunked my child.  From that moment on – with that club – team selection became a very political issue. There was such a large group of the Prince’s age that wanted to play, that there would always be two teams.  An ‘A’ team and a ‘B’ team.  A ‘white’ team and a ‘green’ team.   A ‘select’ team and – because they didn’t want the two teams playing against one another – a ‘rec’ team.  In spite of his skills and his heart, the Prince was generally relegated to the rec team after tryouts.  Because he missed a year of travel soccer back before third grade.  Political.  And that’s not a biased parent talking.  If I had my druthers, my kids would be in drama….or art…..or music.  Seriously.

     Unfortunately most of the boys who were in his class of peers in elementary school were on the ‘other’ team.  There was one that was particularly vocal about the Prince not being good enough for the ‘real’ team.   His teasing was picked up by others and we told the Prince to just laugh it off.  It wasn’t true, after all.  He knew that.  We knew that.  That was all that mattered.  besides, I knew their Moms.  Talking to them might make other things more difficult so it was better let sleeping dogs lie.  Right?

     Fifth grade.  Sixth grade.  Seventh grade.

     Tough times anyway.  Times made tougher by the ‘friends’ that continued to tease.  Continued to….torment….albeit in a ‘friendly’ way.    The circle became even bigger when he moved to middle school and there were more from the real team there.  Most of his team mates attended other middle school in the district.  We tried to talk him into making new friends…and he did…. but their interests were not soccer.  Which he is what he loved.  And besides, the others in that group had been his ‘friends’ since Kindergarten.  He liked them.

     During this time the Princess had been exploring other sports but was recruited by another club that was teaching her some excellent soccer skills.  We asked Prince to change soccer clubs so he would be working with hers but he chose to stay where he was.  He liked his coach and he liked his team mates.  Even if they weren’t ‘good enough’ for the real team.  Finally he decided to switch. For the training.

     Then the mantra with his circle became his need to switch to another club because he was too chicken to continue on the ‘not real’ team.  Again, we told him to just let it roll.  He would have to learn  how to deal with trash talk sometime, right?  He knew he was getting better training.   He knew his skills would be better.  That’s what mattered.

     In eighth grade – blessed be – another student from his school joined the outside soccer club.    So did his sister.  We parents swapped driving duties.  The kids became good friends. 

     One day, my new friend and driving buddy approached me about the teasing that was going on among the boys.  She asked me if I knew what was being said to our sons at school.  Every day.  Multiple times.  I nodded when she told me.  Nothing different than the Prince had been told before.  Nothing different than I had heard for four years. 

     Then she said something that put my son’s anguish into perspective.  Eight members of that ‘real’ team were in their circle of  friends.  If three of them (and it was usually more)  made a daily comment to our sons about ‘not being good enough’,  then they were being told three times – EVERY day – that they were not good soccer players.  Didn’t I wonder what kind of effect it  had on my son’s self esteem?

Whoa.

No.  I never really did.

Thinking I was giving my child the tools to deal with the outside world, I was forcing him to take constant hits….against his abilities, against his dedication to do well, against his talent, against his self esteem.  Multiple hits…on a daily basis.

I truly did my son wrong.

And he is still paying for it.

He  remains  friends with most of those boys from the bullying years.  That’s a good thing.  Some of them even play on his high school team.  Others have gravitated to other sports. 

I admire my son’s  ability to forgive,  his talent and his dedication to a sport that he truly loves.  I especially admire his courage.

I just wish he did.