I have never shunned the idea of being a soccer mom. I’ve just never been given the opportunity to be one, mainly because my son doesn’t play soccer.
Or baseball, or football, or any other sport. And lately, that’s posed a problem.
My 8-year-old son recently finished a basketball camp, one he specifically wanted to attend. My husband and I were thrilled. Basketball has been the one sport our son has shown an interest in. My son knows he needs to practice more than others his age, but we always emphasize that it’s the effort that matters in sports – and we love to point out what a good defensive player he’s become.
The camp lasted only a week. We were encouraged by our son’s apparent enjoyment of it, so we asked if he was interested in signing up for another week at the end of summer.
He hemmed and hawed. We told him another week would give him more confidence on the court. He would improve his dribbling and shooting.
Fine, fine, he told us, I’ll do it because you’re begging me!
The answer surprised me.
And then, my son laid in with the confessions.
He told me that, while he really liked the camp’s wonderful, supportive coaches, he still wound up crying nearly every day he was there.
In his words, he was horrible, just horrible.
And if that wasn’t enough to break my heart, my son offered up this tiny dagger to crack it wide open: He no longer liked recess at school because no one wants to play with him.
What?!? But what about the friends who invite him to parties and play dates on the weekend?
They all leave him to play sports.
“I don’t like recess because all I do is walk around,” he said. Alone.
Now, I know my son is not athletic. He doesn’t care for most sports, although he does enjoy watching baseball games with his dad. He knows he’s not coordinated and he is aware that his classmates know this, too.
Would practice help? Probably. But will he ever feel confident on the playing field? Probably not.
I’m fine with that. I really am, mainly because I’m swollen with pride over the fact that my son, at age seven, would write out, in long hand, chapters to books he had made up in his mind. He also zooms around the living room, envisioning movies he is creating – he even wrote the screenplay to one of them. He also read three Roald Dahl book within two months – and has the ability to read them in two languages.
Yet, he prefers to hang out with friends who have increasingly become involved in sports and whose schedules have become dependent on what time their league game is that weekend.
Complicating this, at least for me, is the group of uber-competitive parents out there. When my son participated in a county basketball league last year, I was appalled at how many parents (mostly dads, but a good share of moms, too) would stand on the sidelines, screaming at their children to pass! Or shoot! Now!
Sports are supposed to promote teamwork. It's about the way you play the game that matters, not winning or losing. Sports also are supposed to build self-esteem, but for my son, it does the opposite. I don’t want to put too much pressure on him. He’s the type of kid who does enough of that to himself.
As someone who grew up with sisters, all this sports pressure can be shocking. I struggle to make sure my son knows we love him regardless of whether he turns out to be a jock, or a geek, or someone in between.
It just hurts to see him yearn to be with his friends. It’s natural, I know, but at age eight, it’s hard for him to understand that he might find other kids who like to read or live inside their movie-creating-minds. I try to impress upon him that one day, he could be the next Spielberg or Scorsese – and he will soon find friends who think that’s better than hitting a double or scoring a touchdown.
I want him to know that I don’t need to be a soccer mom. I would as easily be happy as a drama mama.