Motherhood was fun and chaotic, but I wouldn't trade that experience for anything.
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.
20 Years of Sideline Momming
My evening run traversed through a maze of ball fields loaded with kids learning about rules, teamwork, favoritism, and the discomfort of athletic cups. It hit me with brut force, the memories of my 20 years as a sideline parent, causing me to stop my run and jot down my memories as a sideline mom.
There are a few types of child athletes when it comes to sports. Some kids play by choice and genuine love of the game, while others play due to a parental bribe or expectation.
There's a clear distinction between those who succeed in the game and those who don't. Regardless of which label applies to the child, we encourage them to uphold their decision to play, even when it's clear they don't want to be there.
We advise them that they won't always play the position they desire, and sometimes, they may not play, depending on the coaching style. Regardless, kids learn the best of life's lessons from loss and failure. We tell them not to be a quitter when things don't go their way. While it's probably easier on the parents to let them quit, it sets them up to be quitters in real life. So we tough it out with them, 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" Parent: This is the parent who'll do about anything to get their child outside and active. These kids are the second or third-string benchwarmers, but no one cares because everyone gets a medal. These parents nap behind their sunglasses while waiting for it to be over. They can't get too comfortable because these are the kids with the impending emergency room visit. After all, they're busy searching for four-leaf clovers in the outfield.
- The "I Wanna Be a Kid Again" Parent: This parent lives vicariously through their child so that they can redeem their athletic failures. This parent is shouting at the umpires, screaming from the sidelines, and demanding their kid be put into the game because they can't witness failure anymore. This is the parent you'll almost give up your spot in the concession line to slap! But you're starving and have already waited 30 minutes for a semi-cold rotisserie hot dog.
- The "Coach" Parent: This parent expects their child to excel and constantly rips 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, every sport, every season. They keep stats to analyze their child's performance and create a plan for the next match. This parent is also capturing nonstop video footage that'll never be watched and stored in a plastic tote in the basement for decades. It'll be obsolete within the year, thanks to ever-changing video technologies.
Some parents barely make it there, still in their work duds, with the look that screams, "I'm a failure at parenting." These parents nonchalantly slide into the bleachers because they forgot their butt-sunken umbrella chair in the car. Their only hope is to make the final inning and not disappoint their child with a no-show and make the “bad parent walk of shame." they will one day throw in your face as "remember that time you missed my game?" (forgetting all the ones you DID make).
"It's not whether you win or lose, it's how your parents behave at the game!"
My Life as a Sideline Mom
We won't talk about the year I tried my hand coaching my daughter's softball team. I remember when all four of my "Babes" played on different fields simultaneously. It was chaotic and confusing to split my time fairly, and I felt like a total mom failure. I knew nothing about the game, but they needed someone desperately. I do think I scored one Mom-Brownie point for it.
I ate my share of bottom-of-the-barrel hot dogs, "tacos-in-a-bag," and Swedish Fish desserts. I "first-aided and Gator-added" like a boss and, like all "good moms," took my turns working in the gawd-awful concession stand because we don't endure enough torture as parents.
Speaking of concession stands, please pre-pack some food if you have an ounce of sanity, willpower, and foresight. DON'T GO TO THE CONCESSION STAND! The minute you do, you've set a precedent for your child and any younger siblings in tow to beg for every single thing, every single game, for the entire game.
And Just Like That, It Was Over
Here sit, now watching from the sidelines of their adult live-- with no "interference." I wonder how I ever managed it all. I wonder if they think about those chaotic evenings and weekends, year after year and if they have positive reflections. I hope so because that's what I wanted for them.
Tonite, I stopped amid my run, with tear-filled eyes, to sit against a tree and write this blog--because I can--with all the free non-momming time in the world.
I haven't touched a concession stand hot dog in years. I keep thinking about how I need to convert those VHS tapes to DVD and then to the Cloud. One day I'll watch them again. I'm confident it will happen because I think of them often. I remember I still need to scrapbook all those photos, like the one above of my son sliding 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 watch my grown children be "sideline parents" and chuckle when they aren't looking. I'll advise my adult kids not to 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 before because now I'm a pro.
© 2018 Debra Roberts