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On the Sidelines

On the Sidelines


I've become quite the passionate soccer mom. The word 'rabid' comes to mind, but I think that's too self-critical, too self-deprecating. The truth is I care. The truth is it is immensely meaningful - and meditative - for me to watch my three girls play the sport I once loved, the sport I played through high school, the sport Husband played through college. 

I cherish my time on the sidelines. Practices and games are different experiences. During practices, I sit on the bleachers and I exhale the day and check my phone a bit too often. Sometimes I chat with other parents who are there, but sometimes I don't do much of that. If my littlest is with me, I spend a good bit of time entertaining her, coming up with ideas to pass the time - races to and from the equipment shed, leaf piles (she surprised me by spelling out MOMMY in leaves not long ago), reading her library books. But mostly I watch. I watch my girls work hard and run hard and laugh with their coaches and teammates. It's such a happy, happy thing to behold.

Games are something else. I'm not a mom who can sit in some fancy portable chair. No. I must stand. I must pace. I rarely check my phone. I'm immersed. And I cheer. Sometimes loudly. Sometimes I hear my own bellowing voice and it startles me, embarrasses me. I tend to only say positive things like "good job, baby!" or silly things like "get there!" or "shoot!" and my girls swear up and down that they like hearing me cheer, but I'm trying to contain myself a bit better. And games are something else because I'm so invested, maybe too invested. I feel it. When our team scores, I jump up and down and my energy elevates. When one of my kids score, I'm borderline euphoric. When the other team scores, I feel a jolt  of disappointment along with the kids. When we win, I'm a happy camper. When we lose, I feed sad. 

I'm attached. It's as if I'm out there playing sometimes. There are moments when the ball travels toward me and my instinct is to run in and kick it. I forget that I'm the mom now, not the player. My body forgets. This is interesting to me; curious, funny.

It's occurred to me that being on the sidelines is symbolic. Of course it is. In so many ways, this is what parenthood is, or at least becomes with time. As our kids grow up, they more and more begin playing their own games, living their own lives. And this is just as it should be, but it is also tricky. We are relegated to the sidelines at times and from there all we can do is watch and hope and cheer and despair. And sometimes we feel it all as if it is our game, as if it is our life, but it isn't. We (I) must remember it isn't.

It is theirs.

It is theirs, but it is important that we are there, isn't it? That we are our pleasant or goofy selves on the actual and metaphorical sidelines, that our presence is felt, that our kids know and continue to know we are their biggest fans. And we are. We always will be. I distinctly remember Mom on all of my sidelines. I remember what it felt like having her there. It felt like love.

But it's not all metaphor. There is the real, the corporeal, the logistical, the sweet delight of beginning or ending the day outside, of being in green grass under a benevolent, shifting sky, of fresh air, and if we are lucky, the most exquisite sunsets too, divine strokes of color that bookend a day that was good or not so good and remind us that this vast world can be gorgeous even when it feels hard. The colors, the magic - it all reminds us of something vital - that this world is so much bigger than we are, these little specks on sidelines, our hearts beating and bursting with love.

Do your kids play sports or did you play as a kid? How do you (or did your parents) comport yourself on the sidelines?

Do you agree that some of parenthood at least is about realizing and respecting that the game is our kids'?

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