Thursday, March 10, 2005

Take Me Out

We were in the car, coming home from the park, when from the back seat I heard

“What were those people doing in the park?”
I stiffened, but said casually,
“Which people?” (I knew exactly which ones)
“Those people behind the trees”
“Oh. That’s called soccer”
“It looked fun. I want to do it”
The car jerked slightly under my involuntary spasm. I did yoga breathing, and tried again.
“Soccer is for grownups. Most people wait until college to play soccer, or until they can drive. Some people” I added optimistically “wait until they are married to play soccer”

She saw a woman walking a poodle, and changed topics, but I was shaken for the rest of the day. I don’t think anyone is prepared for the first time their child wants to talk about soccer.

I cannot be a team parent. I would sooner donate a kidney -- at least with that, you get morphine. To look at soccer/baseball/basketball/Jai Alai schedules on the refrigerators of friends is to gaze at my own mortality. How is this any different from the cavalcade that you have now, you might ask, the locust storm of after-school activities that Daughter already takes? Diversity, my friend, diversity. At its worst, I see the same parents twice a week, for an hour, while our daughters take a class together. A team means months and months with the same parents, hours every week. I simply don’t have the kind of personality that can hold up to that kind of scrutiny. I know enough about me to know I will manage to hurt someone’s feelings before Month #1 has ended, and she will stop talking to me except in emergencies, which will lead her friends to shun me as well, resulting in strained silences on the bleachers. Eventually, I will form an unlikely friendship with the woman who lives behind the public bathrooms. It’s hard to get excited about a situation where you know that you are only one caffeinated blurt about how ugly stirrups pants are away from your own social exile.

Also, and this shouldn’t matter as much as it does, I hate nearly every sport. I had a brief love affair with the Celtics in the 80’s, and I do enjoy fencing, a sport notable for being nearly impossible to watch and understand. I could be talked into enjoying basketball again but no genetic descendant of mine is likely to be found towering over her peers. We are a “front line in school pictures” kind of people. For reasons only a gifted psychologist could ferret out, I have a particular loathing for soccer. And if Daughter were doing this soccer business, I’d have to learn something about it. I’d have to care about the fact that she cared, as opposed to actually caring about the thing she cared about. I could do it, but it would surely sap my goodwill away from the other emotionally generous things I do. I suspect the dog would take the brunt of it.

For a woman who is trying to downsize the corporation that is her Daughter, it is illogical to add a team of anything. To have your child join a sports team is to enter the Holy Order of Activity. You think this isn’t a religious calling?

1. Vow of poverty-- Have you priced equipment?
2. A Life of Prayer-- As I understand it, team parents spend most of their time pleading to any deity who might take an interest to “Please let my kid touch the ball intentionally”. This is followed by the ultimate prayer: “Please, please don’t make the playoffs”.
3. Chastity—it’s difficult to be one of those couples who manage to forget the weird noise the dryer is making and head into the bedroom for a night of Bored Housewife and the Sparkletts man, if you have to be up at 6:30 for the Pancake Breakfast and Tire Rotation fundraiser for the team.

So why am I bothering to write on and on about something I insist is never going to happen? Why am I not writing about something fun, like my inability to find flattering light in a single lingerie dressing room? Because I need to rail like this before I give in. If Daughter really wants this, of course I am going sign her up. The fresh air will be good for me (did I mention my natural skin color is that of Elmer’s Glue?). Daughter will learn new skills (I have seen children who, while waiting for some kind of ball to arrive in their sector, have wedged two fingers into a single nostril). Best of all, I will have plenty of time to write, sitting quietly on the far corner of the bleachers, after the popular Mom makes me a pariah.

I stand by what I said to her about stirrup pants, though.


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