I grew up in a non-sporty family. We didn’t play sports, we didn’t watch sports on TV, we didn’t have favorite teams, we didn’t follow March Madness or the World Series, and my parents never spent one single minute driving me to a practice or sitting through a game or competition.
Nonetheless, when my oldest was around five years old, I signed him up for soccer. EVERYONE was signing their kid up for soccer so I should too, right? I mean, they have to do SOMETHING, right?! (WRONG, but we will get to that later). Didn’t Mom always say that you don’t have to follow the crowd? If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you jump off a cliff too? Apparently, the anwswer is yes because I jumped right off that cliff into preschool soccer, and I was miserable with a capital M.
It shouldn’t be any surprise that I was a really bad soccer mom, or any-kind-of-sport mom, for that matter. I hated practices. I hated games. I could never manage to have both socks and jersey laundered on game day. We could never find both cleats at 8 AM on Saturday morning. I prayed for thunderstorms. Or even a sprained ankle. Anything, really ANYTHING, to get out of soccer.
Being the non-sporty mom, but wife to a serious sport guy and therefore mom to some fairly sporty kids, I had to figure something out. Finally after YEARS of trial and error (and probably way too much thought on my part), we have finally reached a point where they kids are enjoying their participation in sports, and I am actually enjoying it too. At least, most days I don’t want to poke my eyes out over it. These are the things that are working for us.
They choose sports based on only one criteria. To do any sport, my kid has to LOVE it. We don’t choose sports because they need the exercise. That’s what bikes and backyards are for. We don’t choose sports because they might get a college scholarship from it. Not gonna happen, plus way too much stress and pressure. We don’t choose a sport because a kid is good at it and “should” do it. That’s a quick way to turn something they love into something they hate. We don’t choose a sport because “they have to do something.” While it is only my opinion, I do not believe a child (or an adult) has to do a sport to have a full, happy, healthy life. There are plenty of other things they can spend their time doing that are fun, productive, healthy. Maybe I could make a list….in another post. The only reason the hubs and I are going to shell out our hard earned cash, have dinner at a ridiculous hour thanks to evening practice, and get up way too early every weekend to schlep a kid to a sport is if she LOVES it.
Not only does this prevent all of the issues I just listed, but it also solves the whole missing-socks-dirty-jersey-I-only-have-one-cleat-I-don’t-wanna-get-up-when-the-alarm-goes-off-on-Saturday-morning problem. When a kid loves the sport they do, you don’t have to wake them up because they’re up at the crack of dawn asking you if you’re getting up soon. You don’t have to find the jersey because they already asked you to wash it yesterday. They know exactly where their cleats are since they’ve been using them every single day to practice in the backyard. THAT is an activity I want my kid doing–one that he loves, one that he takes responsibility for because he wants to go there.
I don’t watch practice. Ok, that’s not entirely accurate. I do watch some, but most importantly, I have set the expectation that I am not going to watch practice. Sometimes, I drop them off and run errands or just sit in my car and listen to a podcast. Other times, I bring along some work to do or a book to read. The message to my children is this: you do something you love with your free time, and I will do something I love with my free time. Do your sport because you love it, not because you want me to see how awesome you are. I already know how awesome you are.
I don’t watch every game. For all the same reasons I don’t watch every practice, I also don’t watch every game. With three kids on three or more teams, it can also be a huge time commitment. I have stuff to do too, and their stuff doesn’t trump my stuff. My stuff is what keeps me sane, whether that is running to the grocery alone, working in peace and quiet (since I work from home), reading a book, or taking a nap. We have to have a little balance, or I will lose it. No one wants that. It’s not pretty. Lest you worry my children are neglected, at least one of us, my husband or I, are there to watch their games 99% of the time. Not to mention, we spend plenty of time together otherwise–like about 160 hours out of every week, since we homeschool.
We don’t do snacks. This may seem like a little thing, but I spent way too much of my life stressed out and cranky, feeling like I had to do something I thought was
stupid a really bad idea. Hand kids who kinda, sorta exercised for an hour (but mostly just wandered around in a circle and picked flowers off the field) a sugar-filled drink, a high-fructose laden treat, and a bag of salty, deep fried, fake cheese dusted carbs as a reward. Umm, no. If snacks are your jam, go for it. But I gotta be me. Snacks are most definitely not my thing. It is so not my thing that I dreaded snack sign up every season FOR YEARS. How ridiculous is that? (Remember, I am not that great at dealing with peer pressure. 🙂 See above.) Now, I just don’t sign up. There are usually plenty of other willing parents, but if a coach or “snack mom” is insistent I sign up, well….just expect bottles of water and bananas. Yes, I am that mom. It’s okay if you roll your eyes at me. I do it all the time.
If you did sports at a kid, maybe this is stuff you already knew. Perhaps sign-up nights and practice schedules and snack calendars were familiar to you already, not crazy-making like they were for me. Perhaps sports is the glue that fills cracks and crevices of free time and fun for your family. For me–an introverted, uncoordinated bookworm who has played a sport for a grand total of exactly one college semester, it’s been a lengthy learning experience to say the least. Most surprising to me, I am glad that we have figured out a way to make the sports my kids love be a pleasure not just for them, but for me too.