Yesterday mom mailed me an article she cut out from her local newspaper. It was about three women who have been swimming in Lake Michigan through the frigid Chicago winter. She sent it to me because I have been swimming every day for the last ninety days. But here in the Pacific Northwest, we don’t have subzero temperatures; it’s usually about 40 degrees Fahrenheit when I jump in. The article talked about the little community these women have formed. In addition to the three of them, there are others who come just to watch and cheer them on. Some bring muffins and cakes. Others bring blankets and first aid supplies. The supporters come simply to be a part of this little community the women have created.
Last night I dropped my daughter off for her fifth soccer practice of the week. There has been no school in our city for over a year. The only time my daughter is with her peers is when she is playing soccer. This week high school soccer started and her practice schedule bumped up from twice a week to five days a week, sometimes for a total of seven different practices.
I parked the car to wait out the hour-long practice but, it was a moderately warm night so I decided to take a walk. I grabbed a mask and strolled through the commercial part of the neighborhood I was in. After making two loops through the little village I returned to the field and spent the rest of my time circling the perimeter.
As I circled the field I passed the car after car of parents sitting in the driver’s seat looking at either a phone or an iPad. Parents are not allowed to sit or stand at the sidelines of practices like they used to. It’s a gathering hazard. It was probably against the rules for me to be walking around the field as well and I tried to stay far outside of the border so as not to be noticed.
As I walked I realized how much I missed the old camaraderie we used to have at games. Rain or shine, we’d gather along the sidelines cheering our girls. Now, as the kids played, parents were forced to sit in their cars alone.
When my daughter was done with her scrimmage I met her at the edge of the field. Sweaty and flushed, she yammered on about the game. She was talking a mile a minute, filled with energy and excitement. In the old days, there would be lots of parents standing there, and as our kids approached, we’d each be touched by our respective child’s energy and it would be a little bit like the end of a party. Everyone smiling and laughing as we walked to our cars and went our separate ways.
I used to complain a lot about soccer. I balked at the idea of being a “soccer mom.” I whined at the hours that commuting to practices and games sucked out of my schedule. Now, without the ability to carpool because of COVID, those driving obligations are more than double, but I don’t mind because I can see how soccer is saving my daughter’s soul.
Soccer is the only time my daughter can be around other kids. Though she is masked and socially distanced if possible, she is with other people, in community. With each loop of the field last night, as I passed the solitary faces of the parents sitting alone in their cars, I felt exponentially more grateful for the experience that these kids are having.
When we got home I remarked to my partner how much difference I noticed in our daughter. In just a week of everyday contact, it seemed her spirits had been lifted, her soul restored. I don’t know when these poor kids will go back to school, but for now, I am eternally grateful for the time my daughter has on the field with her friends. I vow here and now to never complain about soccer again.