Every week when I show up for Buddy’s soccer game, I give myself a little pep talk.
Don’t yell, don’t scream, don’t be one of THOSE parents. Just sit there silently, watch the game, and maybe run out at halftime with a baggie of orange wedges for the team. Just be THAT mom.
But I can’t help it. It’s my natural response. Because there are three very powerful forces at play here: my overwhelming love for, and great pride in, my son; my love of sports; and my competitive nature. Eventually, one of them wins, I open my mouth during the game, and then I find myself making the same promises the following week.
And this enthusiasm is not just limited to kids sports, as anyone who’s been to a Red Sox game or watched a Patriots game with me will attest.
Now let’s be clear. I’m not behaving badly. I’m not yelling terrible things at my son or his teammates, or cursing his coaches (disclaimer: one of them happens to be my husband) for their coaching decisions or for “not playing my son enough.” I’m not screaming obscenities at the 13-year-olds who ref the soccer games.
But I am an enthusiastic, avid spectator. I shout out encouragements to both him and his teammates (“Great job, Buddy! Nice job, Timmy! Ohhh, great try, Johnny!”). I yell to Buddy to “Pay attention” when I see him goofing off while manning the goal, or to “Run” when I see him dawdling on the opposite side of the field. I clap and cheer when they score a goal, or when a player on the opposing team makes a great play. I’m loud and boisterous. But I’m not mean.
I’ve asked Buddy if he hears us parents (because, trust me, I’m not the only one) yelling from the sidelines and he said sometimes, but truthfully he didn’t seem bothered by it at all. And I began to wonder if he actually likes the fact that his mom is there, obviously engaged in the game and supporting him.
So why do I sometimes feel a bit of remorse (or embarrassment?) afterwards? Why am I so paranoid about appearing like a crazy sports parent? Why do I find myself rewinding time, wondering whether I was too loud, too obnoxious? Did I annoy the other (quieter) parents sitting around me? Am I not “supposed” to be acting like that?
It’s such a fine line to walk as a parent when it comes to your kids and sports. There are countless stories in the media of parents who have egregiously crossed that line, who are trying to fulfill their own sports fantasies through their kids, who think their child is the second coming of name-a-famous-athlete.
Yet on the flip side, there are those parents who don’t bother to stay for the game or too are engrossed in their iPhones or catching up on the town gossip the whole time that they’re not even paying attention.
I think I fall somewhere in the middle. And that’s okay with me. Because last night I gave Buddy a hug and told him, “I love to watch you play soccer.” And his face lit up. “I love it when you cheer for me,” he replied.
And there you have it. If that makes me the mom screaming from the sidelines, then I am 100% okay with it.