Soccer/football/T-ball mom dreams of a free moment or two

OlympianNovember 12, 2013 

I have a confession to make, and it’s a humdinger.

When you read it, many of you will be shocked.

Some may think it’s unforgivable. Some will feel compelled to write angry letters.

And many others will probably categorize me as “that mom” — the woman whose world is spinning out of control and has the knack of making the worst parenting decisions ever. But I’m hopeful that some of you will understand and offer some sympathetic words, or at least snicker in agreement.

Perhaps you’ll say, “I felt the same exact feelings one time.”

Or “Girlfriend, puh-leeze, who can blame you?”

OK, here goes: My son’s peewee football team recently made it to the district finals, and you know what? I kind of secretly hoped they might lose, instead of moving on to the championship round.

Wait: Before you start lighting your torches — or firing up your computer — you have to see where I’m coming from. I have three sports-loving kids.

Throughout the year they’re active in T-ball and coach pitch, soccer and football, wrestling and dance. Two of our kids are involved in competitive shooting, one takes horse riding lessons, and all three have taken swimming lessons. During their off-seasons, their days are filled with sports camps.

There are times I feel as if I should just have my paycheck automatically deposited to local sporting goods stores because that’s where I spend a lot of money.

And don’t get me wrong: I love it, I really do. I’m glad they have activities that teach them teamwork and help keep them fit. Plus, I was a super-busy student athlete, so I get the need to stay involved and have your life taken over with practices, fundraisers and games.

But when you’re a parent, life changes drastically when your kids get involved in sports. You work, eat and plan life around practices and games. Your new car stinks of sweaty cleats and gets sticky from spilled sports drinks.

You spend hours every week chatting with other parents. You get to know the other kids, and in the perfect situation, you often feel like an important part of the team, too.

My husband and I tackle our sports parent duties like a competition. We buy team photos. We line up to make a tunnel after every soccer match and football game.

We fight over who gets to wear the big buttons that feature our kids’ sports photos, and usually try to wear the parent version of their team’s T-shirt, sweatshirt or jersey. Most important, we scream on the sidelines until we can barely talk the next day.

But this fall has been the busiest ever, and I’m beginning to run out of steam. In addition to our three kids-in-sports schedule, we lost a dear family member, had an appendicitis scare with one of our sons, and had two immediate family members hospitalized. Then a few weeks ago, Hunter, our 15-year-old black Lab, began turning his head away from food, making us think he was on death’s door. He isn’t in pain, and he’ll refuse food for a couple of days and then eat normally for a few more. Still, it’s not easy to watch.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to readjust to a full-time work schedule, which is a good thing. But suddenly I don’t know when I’m going to grocery shop, do laundry, volunteer in my kids’ classrooms, or do any of those things that I used to do.

My house is probably in the worst shape it’s ever been in, and I’m so busy I’ve been ignoring a “change oil soon” light in my car for a few weeks.

Mix in a Saturday where we stood in the cold and rain for nearly seven hours of soccer and football games, and a little anxiety that my husband was leaving for two weeks and forcing me to juggle everything essentially as a single parent, and guess what?

Third place and a week without practices or another game for our football team sounded like a dream come true.

I realize it was a completely selfish fantasy, but for a few minutes — OK, more like a few days — the idea of removing something so time-consuming from my schedule seemed so appealing. Plus, guess what? Third place is still awesome. There are a whole lot of other teams that would be happy with it.

One of my friends told me later that we probably would have ended up playing an extra week for third or fourth place anyway. But I didn’t know that at the time, and I was basking in the possibility of a little free time. It’s been so long since I’ve had free time, I’m not really sure what I’d do with it.

Maybe I’d cook something on the stove or oven instead of the microwave, work out on the treadmill, or take a nice, hot bath (after I spent an hour scrubbing the bathtub).

Naturally, I never let on to my son or the die-hard football parents that I wasn’t necessarily rooting for a win, while I was freezing on the world’s coldest metal bench, next to my youngest son who wore my gloves and stuck my hand warmers in his boots. Nah.

Instead, I put on my best football mom smile, and cheered while watching our son — who is playing on the second team — run the ball for 7 yards in the fourth quarter.

I told him I was proud when he came off the field.

I negotiated with another parent to help cover practices while my husband was away, and took our family to post-game burgers and milkshakes.

Then I took a deep breath and tried to figure out how I could possibly ever be OK with third place — especially since I was suddenly re-energized at the thought that they had a shot at the championship.

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