You know when you walk into a gathering or public venue and immediately feel at home? Maybe it’s a social club, church, or even your favorite city pub. You walk in, and as you soak in the environment, you see other people who look like you, you hear your favorite song playing on the speaker, or maybe you smell something that brings back a nostalgia for home. Before your thoughts even catch up to your feelings, you become a regular or even like family to the other individuals in that environment. You’re in the right place at the right time, and it becomes a part of who you are. That’s exactly the opposite of how mom life throughout the community feels for me. Because my husband and I have chosen a nontraditional path to parenthood, we rapidly transformed from a married couple with two incomes, a cozy home, and a spontaneous lifestyle to a family of five (including a seven year old, five year old, and two year old) living in a constant state of crowded chaos. Though my journey to parenthood was destined to happen in a fast, reckless manner, I was mentally and emotionally prepared to be a great parent (let’s all take a moment and laugh at the idea that anyone could ever be prepared for this parenthood thing). What I had never considered before having children was just how dysfunctional my transition into soccer mom would be and how mediocre I would feel.
When I say soccer mom, I mean a literal mother of a child playing soccer. My oldest child (now eight years old) decided to plunge into soccer for the first time this season. My husband and I are fans of change and trying new things so this was an exciting adventure for our family. There were some challenges from the start, such as: apparently most children don’t wait until eight years old to try a new sport, and apparently most parents are at least acquainted with each other by the time all their children are playing the same sport as eight year olds. Those hurdles seemed minor enough.
I was running late to my child’s first soccer game because I’m me, and I’m late to everything (plus I had the great idea to cook waffles and bacon before the 8:00 game in an attempt to be mom of the year in spite of my social blunders soon to come). I pulled into the parking lot searching frantically for a spot to park my Jeep Wrangler amongst all the Suburbans and minivans (Are you wondering how I fit a car seat and 2 boosters into the back of a jeep yet?). The carpool line has already prepared me for my vehicle to stand out so at this point, I’m just grateful I have 4WD allowing me to park in the grass with no fear of being trapped in this swarm of mom cars for the rest of my life. That “what am I doing here feeling” didn’t really set in until we made our way to the fields.
It was an exceptionally hot day in South Mississippi. I made my way to the crowded soccer fields wearing cut off jean shorts, a large t-shirt, high top chucks, and my natural wavy hair with kids hanging off each arm. I usually try not to let stereotypes drive my expectations, but I suppose stereotypes exist for a reason. Apparently there’s a soccer mom uniform, and I totally missed the memo about the pregame meeting to pick up my school apparel t-shirt, yoga pants, tennis cap, and running shoes. Also, apparently there’s no bleacher seating at the soccer fields. No wonder not only was I the only mom walking up dressed like a fifteen year old, I was also the only mom who was empty handed (in my defense, we’re a baseball family, and there are ALWAYS bleachers at the baseball fields). As my two younger children and I sat on the ground (criss-cross applesauce) to watch the game in a sea of bag chairs and yeti coolers, I realized apparently the good soccer moms care about their children’s hydration. I quickly resolved the hydration situation because though I’m an imposter soccer mom, I’m a survivor. As the game started, I couldn’t stop laughing. I wouldn’t say I’m the type who laughs at inappropriate times. I’m just a transparent person, and if it’s funny, it’s funny. Friends, eight and nine year olds playing soccer is funny. Midway into my child’s team getting stomped in the ground by the other team, one of her male teammates began crying so hard that his mother intervened on the sideline to calm him down. While definitely not calming down, the kid started vomiting. As the herd of tiny soccer players kicked the ball back to our side of the field, the vomiting child ran onto the field from the sidelines and kicked the ball with all his might then sprinted back off the field to resume vomiting. Actual tears poured from my face as I hyperventilated with laughter while all the other moms stared at me with disgust. Apparently good soccer moms are also empathetic.
I learned from this one experience that to be a good soccer mom, I need a new vehicle, a new wardrobe, and a poker face. Let’s be honest: I’m probably always going to be a mediocre soccer mom (because yes, my child has decided to stick with it despite my humiliation). This is how out of place I feel every time I take my children to a school function or any other community event. Maybe I’m a mediocre parent. As I have talked to more mothers over the past year, I have learned that we all feel pretty mediocre and even more often like total failures. Sometimes we’re so concerned with being good enough that we forget to admire the beautiful things in life and laugh when life’s funny. It’s beautiful that my tough little eight year old who has been thrown into a completely new life, family, and community is brave enough to try a new sport. It’s beautiful that my husband and I are both working hard to support her in this endeavor regardless the challenges. It’s beautiful that her coach took a special interest in encouraging her because even without knowing her story, he could sense her fear and anxiety. It’s funny that the same kid who booted the ball across the field mid vomit also lost a shoe at least two times each game that season. It’s funny that I live close enough to the fields to walk, and I was still late to EVERY SINGLE GAME no matter how early we woke up on game days (but we did do a big family breakfast before every game so I’m still in the running for that mom of the year title, right?). Friends, don’t be scared to try things that don’t give you the warm fuzzies. Don’t be afraid of feeling small and mediocre. Just paint the room black. There is a loud beauty within the mediocrity. Find it. Bust the speakers. Never turn it off.