Coffee never tastes as good as on an early, crisp fall Saturday morning when taking the kids to a soccer or hockey practice. When our three kids were young we wanted to give them as many opportunities as possible to try different sports and activities. The kids got fresh air, exercise and learned to play as a team, follow directions and get along with others. They seemed to really enjoy it, trying everything from t-ball, football, hockey, lacrosse and everyone played soccer from the time they were about three years old.
I remember the crisp fall mornings the best. For my husband and I it was a juggling act to decide who would take who where. Most often games and practices did not overlap, but occasionally we had to go in different directions. I was always looking at the schedule, and Joe and I would decide who was doing what.
If Joe would take them to soccer, which was many times, I would stay home and clean house, or cook, or catch up from the busy week, so if it was my turn to take the kids to soccer on that early Saturday morning, I relished the thought of a nice hot cup of coffee and sitting on the sidelines and relaxing in my folding sports chair (owned by every parent with kids in soccer). I would sit, relax and sip while the kids ran drills with the coaches. It was an opportunity to do nothing, just sit and not feel guilty about not doing dishes or grocery shopping or cleaning toilets. Those moments were so rare back then as we had three kids and a big house and we, like many others, were both working. It was an incredibly busy time, but we were young and energetic and we did have a lot of fun. In our house, the kids came first and as a family we tried to give them every opportunity for fun, education and sports.
The kids did not only play sports, everyone also tried band and Sara seemed to enjoy it the most, joining a multi-school band and actually traveling to play in parades all over Minnesota and even to Washington DC and Colorado. There were also years of dance and plays and swimming. They liked competitive sports and we liked watching them.
I never saw our going to practices and games as a burden, it was truly fun. We got to know a lot of the parents of our kid’s friends and we got to know all of the families from the neighborhood. The games and practices became a social event for the parents. Like in every crowd there were the over serious mom’s and the mom’s who thought their kids were bound to be professional athletes and the valedictorian of the class, and those moms who were nice enough to take the lead role in fundraising, so every kid would get a jersey with their name on the back and the moms and dads got jerseys with their kids name on it. There were those moms who yelled the loudest and were the most fun at the games, to the point where it crossed your mind of whether there was only “coffee” in their insulated cup. The games were a lot of fun and brought everybody closer in the shared cheering for the teams.
The practices were sometimes more than a social event, where we, as the moms, could chit-chat about everything from our struggles to keep the house clean, to pet issues, and how to make sure the kids get their homework done, to the fun events coming up at school or in the community. Sometimes we just exchanged funny stories about family life and we laughed as we kept filling our coffees from our metal thermos. For some of us it was an hour or so of no responsibilities and a time to commiserate with other moms, for others it was a time to seek advice from other mothers and be encouraged that raising kids is sometimes an art and not a science and that despite all of our concerns and worries everything would be fine. That love and a hug are good every day and not to sweat the small stuff as perfection is not only impossible, but would be detrimental to the sheer enjoyment of life’s surprises.
We thought enrolling our kids in sports was all about them and it was great for them over the years, but we did not realize the side benefits for ourselves as parents and especially moms. We learned from one another and we became closer as a community as we would see the same families over and over from sport to sport and from band concert to school play. Raising kids is being
part of a school and a community and should not be done in isolation. We can gain strength, encouragement and joy from one another in the shared experience. The old saying that it takes a village to raise a child shows a lot of wisdom, and is not only an expression of what is good for the child, but shows real wisdom on the support and encouragement that we all need as parents. Support, love and encourage one another as we navigate together through the beauty that is family life.