Funny and Authentic Mom Reflections From My Time on the Sidelines
My evening run took me on a trail winding through a maze of fields loaded with kids learning about rules, teamwork, favoritism, and the discomfort of athletic cups.
When it comes to sports, there are many types of child athletes. Some kids are there by personal choice and their love of the game, while others play as a result of a parental bribe.
There is an obvious distinction between those who succeed at the game and those who don't, but regardless of which label applies to your child, we encourage them to follow through with their decision to play, even when it's clear they don't want to be there.
We teach them they won't always get to play the position they desire and sometimes, they may not even get to play at all, because the coach is out for blood or another kid plays that position better. Kids need to learn that the best of life's lessons come from loss and failure, so don't be a quitter the moment things don't go their way. While it is certainly easier on the parent to let them quit, it sets them up to be quitters in real life. So we tough it out, wipe their tears, and try not to strangle--I mean micromanage, their coaches.
Three Types of Sideline Parents
Here are the three types of sideline parents I've observed during my 20 combined years as a sideline parent:
- The Deal Cutter: This is the parent who'll do about anything to get their child outside and active. These kids are usually the second or third-string bench warmers, but no one cares, because everyone gets a medal. These are also the parents who are napping behind their sunglasses waiting for it to be over, but they can't get too comfortable because these are the kids with the impending emergency room visit because they're busy searching for four-leaf clovers in the outfield.
- The "I Wanna Be a Kid Again": This parent lives vicariously through their child so they can redeem their own athletic failures. This parent is usually found shouting at the umpires, screaming from the sidelines, and demanding their kid be put into the game because they simply can't witness anymore failure. This is the parent that you'll almost give up your spot in the concession line to slap, but you are too hungry and waited an hour for a half-cooked rotisserie hot dog.
- The Coach Parent: This parent expects their child to excel and is constantly ripping on the umpires "hey ump, you're missing a great game!". These parents need their own penalty box! They have visions of scholarships and retirement funds. They pull out all the stops by investing in camps and private lessons. Their child starts and plays every inning, of every sport, every season. They keep their own stats to later analyze their child's performance and create a plan for the next match. This parent is also capturing nonstop video footage that will never be watched and stored in a plastic tote in the basement for decades to come. It'll be obsolete within the year thanks to ever-changing video technologies.
Some parents are just barely making it there, still in their work duds, and with the look that screams "I'm a failure at parenting". Their only hope is to make the final inning, and not disappoint their child. No one wants to take the “bad parent walk of shame". They nonchalantly slide into the bleachers because they forgot their butt-sunken umbrella chair in the car.
"It's not whether you win or lose, it's how your parents behave at the game!"
My Life as a Sideline Mom
I remember when I had all four of my "Babes" playing on different fields at the same time, and how chaotic and confusing it was trying to split my time fairly. We won't even talk about the year I tried my hand at coaching my daughter's softball team; knowing utterly nothing about the game, but they needed someone to step up. Let's just say, I have no tolerance for politics and inappropriate umpires and leave it at that. I do think I scored one Mom-Brownie point for it though.
I ate my share of bottom-of-the-barrel hot dogs, "tacos-in-a-bag", and Swedish Fish desserts. I "first-aided and Gator-aded" like a boss and like all "good moms", took my turns working in that gawd-awful concession stand, because we don't endure enough torture as parents.
Speaking of concession stands, if you have even an ounce of sanity and will-power and the foresight and time to pre-pack your own food, DO NOT GO TO THE CONCESSION STAND. The minute you do, you've set the precedent for your child and their younger sibling, whom you also have in tow, to beg for every single thing, every single game, for the entire game.
And Just Like That, It's All Over
So now, I sit watching from the sidelines of their adult lives, with no "interference" unless they ask for it, and I wonder how I ever managed it all. I wonder if they ever think about those chaotic evenings and weekends, year after year and if they look back with positive reflections. I sure hope so, because that's certainly what I intended for them.
Tonite, I stopped in the midst of my run, with tear-filled eyes, to sit against a tree and write this blog--because I can--and with all the free non-momming time in the world. I haven't touched a concession stand hot dog in years. I keep thinking how I need to convert those VHS tapes to DVD and then to the Cloud. One day I will get them out and watch them; I'm confident it will happen. I think how I still need to scrapbook all those photos, like the one above of my son sliding into home (he was "safe" by the way).
I'll soon be purchasing a new butt-sunken umbrella chair to watch my grandkids play. I'll advise my adult kids to not push them too hard, but hard enough they know you care, to teach them helpful lessons of winning, losing, patience, and teamwork. I'll do it better than I did before because now I'm a pro. I'll watch my grown children be "sideline parents" and chuckle fondy when they aren't looking.
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© 2018 Debra Roberts