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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Soccer Mom Machina

Full Disclosure: I classify myself as a soccer mom. But something happened this past weekend that made me step back and say, "Perhaps I need to regroup."

We had been looking forward to the tournament in Kansas City. Nothing quite revives the winter blearies than a weekend of watching soccer, outside, in a cold-region midwestern city, right? Right! Forget Cancun. Hello Overland Park.

There was a bit of anxiety hovering in our household when I came down with a nasty stomach flu the Wednesday before taking off. But we double-downed on the Lysol and anti-bacterial gel. By Friday everyone seemed good to go. Cole was especially excited – what's more fun for a 16-year-old boy to play ball all weekend and terrorize hotel occupants with a cadre of other 16-year-old boys? In a place that also hosted girl soccer teams?

The night we arrived the team met at Buffalo Wild Wings for some camaraderie. The boys set up banquet-style while the parents hunkered around the tall bar tables. With my stomach still touchy, I opted for Sprite over Bud-Lite. As I sipped my bubbly-sugar drink, I found myself listening to my parental peers. Really listening. Olympic-style training regimens. Incredible achievements in just every sport or activity ever invented by the age of six. And smart? Oh-my-goodness. Albert Einstein holds no candle.

Monsters. All of us.

Now, I'm a huge proponent of working hard to achieve your dreams. But when I heard one of the mothers criticizing a kid (not hers) who was wasting his talent by spending too much time with friends, I spoke up. "Well, good for him. You're only young once." Not the response she was looking for. I got a stink-eye and a switch in topic. State bowling, I think.

It's hard not to boast about your kids. We're all proud of our own creations. But I do think we've created an environment that places undue stress on our kids for the slight chance they become rock stars on ESPN. And the entire mentality has made us off-putting in a social setting. Doug and I have agreed to keep ourselves in check. It's become somewhat of a contest. Try not to bring up our kids at all. If someone cares about our amazing kids, they'll ask! (Sorry, didn't mean to brag about their amazingness! I couldn't help myself.)

Anyway, back to my story. As I was listening to a story about one kid's decision to give up his award-winning wrestling career, I was also glancing at Cole who was power eating burgers, wings... and cleaning the plates of his buddies. A voice in my head said, "That might not be good."

It wasn't.

At 1:00 AM we found our son emptying the contents of B-Dubs into the hotel-room toilet. It went on and on. All through the night. Obviously, my first concern was his health. I had spotted a hospital close by earlier in the evening in case we would need some urgent care. (Call it a maternal premonition.) Then I felt sad that Cole was going to miss the college showcase tournament! What if he was going to miss his chance to get noticed! Buggers.

There will be more tournaments!
Then I remembered my observations earlier in the evening. I love my son. I love to watch him play soccer. But so what if he misses a tournament? What's really important here? That my kid quits puking. Period. And he did, eventually. But he was trashed for the weekend. We left Kansas City without stepping foot on a soccer field. As we drove north, Cole splayed in the backseat, in a deep rest without paying any sort of attention to his phone, I felt unusually at peace.

Later that night, his coach called me to check on him. I wondered if he was going to say how disappointed he was that he didn't play. And he did say that. But he also said he respected our decision to not let him play. It was the right thing to do. The right thing to do.

I'm pretty darn sure I won't be shedding my soccer mom persona overnight. When we got a text today about open gym, I wondered if he should go to get some touches on the ball. Then I figuratively slapped myself. He needed to rest another day. Perhaps, just perhaps this soccer mom persona has grown some perspective.

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