On being a soccer mom

The Boy has never been the sporty type. He has other talents (talking, mainly), but he takes after his mother in having no athletic ability whatsoever. And until recently, he’s had no interest in sports, either.

Last year, The Boy was one of only a handful of children in his class – boys and girls included – not to sign up for after-school football club. I wondered whether I should make him give it a go, but he was adamant that he didn’t want to. On one occasion I left him watching by the side of the pitch while I had my parents’ evening appointment. The coach asked if he wanted to join in – and he totally refused.

As well as being an anti-jock, The Boy also *hates* being cold, wet and dirty. He takes after me in that respect, too. So, it was a bit of a surprise when he asked to start football when the season resumed after February half-term. I had strong suspicions that he only wanted to do it because his best mate did, and quizzed him about whether he was really serious. ‘You’ll have to do it even when it’s cold, wet and muddy,’ I warned him, but he was insistent he wanted to give it a go.

I fully expected The Boy to be hopeless, and to become swiftly demoralised by his lack of ball skills. But although his first session was less than a roaring success (we had tears because his team didn’t win, and more tears when he didn’t get the Man of the Match medal), he has really surprised me over the past half-term. Okay, he’s no Messi (yes, I did have to ask my husband to name a suitably decent player), but he’s shown rather more aptitude than I envisaged. I’ve seen some pretty good passes, a neat save or two, and even a storming volley over the goalie’s head. He’s far from one of the best players, but he doesn’t look entirely shambolic compared to the rest of his classmates.

The other thing that has surprised me is his willingness to Get On With It, regardless of rain, mud, wind and freezing temperatures. Because I have discovered, over the past eight weeks or so, that it *always* rains on Wednesdays. And while The Baby and I are equally grumpy about huddling together at the side of the pitch, trying our hardest to stay warm and dry, The Boy seems to love it even more when the weather is foul. Today, he bounded over to me at half-time, hair plastered to his head, glasses covered with droplets, and a huge grin on his face. ‘This is FUN!’ he told me. Later, getting into the car, he giggled, ‘Even my *pants* are wet!’ This being the boy who, at home, will take his socks off if he steps in even a drop of water on the bathroom floor…

Being a soccer mom is so out of my comfort zone, it’s untrue. Cheering him on come rain or shine, pretending I know whether he’s offside or not, dealing with his wet, muddy kit afterwards – I could live without it, to be honest. I also feel incredibly torn on Wednesday afternoons, when the heavens open just as the game is about to start. The Boy may be loving every minute, but it seems so unfair to make The Baby suffer an hour strapped into her buggy in the rain, getting grumpier by the minute.

But while I’ll admit that I wouldn’t be remotely disappointed if The Boy decided, next term, that football wasn’t for him after all, I’m pleased that we gave him the chance. Because not only has he learnt that a bit of rain and mud never killed anyone – a lesson I could do with learning myself – it’s also clear now, from the way that he claps and cheers the winning team (even if it’s not his own) and the Player of the Day after the match, rather than storming off in a sulk as he did at that first session, that he’s picked up a bit of sportsmanship along the way.

I suppose that’s worth me enduring a bit of rain for.

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