I officially became a soccer Mom this fall. Twice weekly I dressed my daughter in soccer gear and toted her to soccer games. It really wasn't competitive. They didn't keep score, and often the coaches had to encourage the kids to, well, just stand up, but it still gave her a chance to run and burn off some of her school stress. It also gave me a lovely hour to sit and enjoy the beautiful fall weather and chat with other soccer moms.
As I watched my daughter running and kicking the ball I couldn't help but reflect on my own childhood athletic activities, or actually, the decided lack of such. My mom believed that if a girl played sports she would grow up to be a lesbian, so to say I wasn’t encouraged to be athletic is an understatement.
I don’t think I’m the athletic type anyway. The limited times I was forced to do something athletic by well meaning teachers I was so traumatically bad that I, and all of my unfortunate team mates were convinced I had no business attempting any sort of sport. My nickname in sixth grade was “statue” because when I played baseball I refused to swing the bat at anything for fear of missing the ball and striking out. Once in church youth basketball I actually caught a pass, only to yell in panic, “What do I do with it?” And in volleyball, no matter how many times someone tried to teach me I could NOT serve the ball over the net.
I didn’t really mind. I was very girly and more than content with my ballet and cheerleading. I never felt like I was missing anything.
But I remember being fascinated with girls who could play sports and could hold their own with boys. I secretly dreamed of being imbued with some magical power that enabled me to do flips on the basketball court, or knock the ball out of the park, much to the amazement of everyone watching.
By the time I was grown I had accepted my “spaz” gene. It was OK. There were lots of other things I could to do stay in shape that weren’t sporty. I jogged, did aerobics, and danced.
When I was in my 20s and living in New York City I shared an apartment with a girl I had met in church. She was the beautiful leggy California blonde guys dream about--and very sporty. She ran marathons, biked up mountains, played basketball, baseball--everything. She was and still is one of the most self possessed women I have ever known. I remember watching her with envy as she played one-on-one with the guys at the church basketball court. She was so confident and had such an effortless ease. She laughed and really seemed to enjoy herself. I remember watching and thinking to myself, “I want my daughter to play sports.”
So even with one daughter and no sons, I’m a soccer mom. I don’t know if my daughter will take to it. She spent most of the first game with her hands on her hips yelling at the boys because they took her ball. (Yeah, that big thud you are hearing is the apple falling right next to the tree.) But then again, maybe she will take to it, or maybe she’ll prefer swimming, or basketball, or volleyball (O, the irony). Or maybe she’ll just be like her old ma and stick with girly things like ballet. But I want to give her the chance. I’d like her to have the opportunity that, not necessarily my mother, but my time and place didn’t give me.
Sometimes I wonder if I had honestly given sports a chance if things might have been a little different for me. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. It’s just that I hope that my daughter does find some sport that she can pursue and enjoy -- that she can have that same effortless ease my friend and room mate had. I think the team work and self assurance it builds will be reflected in whatever else she may choose. And Dad is quiet athletic himself, so there is hope.
But sporty or not, whatever it is my daughter chooses, I think she will do it with more confidence knowing that she could have done anything, that there were no barriers in her way.
And if she does grow up to be a lesbian I just know my mother will never let me hear the end of it.