Emma Freud tries out being a ‘soccer mom’ and discovers that, for some, it’s better than therapy
I’m a beginner in this department, and as we walked onto the field I realized I’d made three classic errors. Rather than wearing my bulky thermals, I decided on ‘fall fashion’. The pitch was shelterless and 7°C with a wind that came from Siberia; I’ve never been so cold in my life.
Secondly… I hadn’t brought the portable chair/blanket combo like every other soccer parent in America. And thirdly I’d forgotten to bring Spike the track suit, hat or leggings which all the kids on the field were wearing. His lips went purple within minutes and there were seven hours to go. Massive parenting fail.
“Why are there soccer moms,” I asked the father of a goalie, “but you don’t hear about ‘baseball moms’, or ‘basketball moms’?” He explained, “Soccer’s a new sport here so American dads have no tradition of playing it themselves and it’s mostly just left for the moms.” *speechless on behalf of FIFA*
And yet there are a lot of dads here today. “This team’s unusual – it’s a New York team so lots of the families are foreign and the dads are more devoted.” It was true – two German, one Dutchman, one Serbian, two Brits… *thrilled on behalf of Europe*
The first match did not go our way. I know now there’s no noise more unpleasant than 11 cosy parents in portable chairs with blankets cheering each of the eight goals their children score against your child’s team.
I discovered that health and safety rules over here are endemic. (Actually, I’d found this out on Spike’s first day at school when he was stuck on a school bus going in the wrong direction for four hours. I eventually tracked him down in Wall Street, but wasn’t allowed to claim him from the bus driver until I’d showed her my ID. “But I’m British…” I pleaded, “We don’t have ID unless we’re 15 and want to drink illegally.” “Then I’ll have to keep him here as you can’t prove you’re his mother.” “‘Mum!” pleaded Spike. “He could say that to anyone,” she said.)
These rules of caution have reached deep into youth soccer: regulations are currently under debate that under-10’s shouldn’t be allowed to do headers in case it damages their brains. This didn’t go down well with the dads, apart from one who said he wouldn’t allow his son to do a header anyway until he was at college. I roared with laughter, but I think he meant it.
The second game was better. I counted six goal cheers from us dads, but a further three weren’t celebrated to spare the feelings of the other team.
“Why do parents here attend so many of their kids’ sports games?” I asked through chattering teeth. “There’s a lot of parenting guilt around” said the dad of a mid-fielder. “We permanently feel we aren’t doing the right thing for our children. And if you get it wrong, you’ll blame yourself for everything that goes badly in the future. Going to their match is a pretty straightforward way of chalking up parenting hours.”
Unfortunately, the final game was a disaster. We watched in silence as our boys ended up 8-0 down. Again. “Why did we come?” I moaned, shivering. “Because the score doesn’t matter,” said a dad who works in marketing, “This is as close as I get to therapy. It’s kids, teamwork and camaraderie; no financials, egos and quarterly results. Real people, real effort and real love.”
“Basically, it’s the same as in the UK,” said another British father, “only explained with less inhibition.”
At the side of the pitch was a food stall. For compensation I ordered an Oreo cookie. The lady covered it in batter and deep fried it. Bloody delicious, as we soccer dads say. And we left to go and drink as much beer as it took to forget our dad-problems. via telegraph.co.uk