Recently a friend from high school invited me out and I found myself having to decline: "It's July. I'm pretty much at the baseball field all month."
If you had told the high school version of me that this would be my life in 2016, I would have laughed at you. (Let's be real, the 2012 version of me would have laughed at you too.) But, it is my life and the baseball field is where I spend most of my free time during July. It's also where I spent a lot of my time during March, April, May and June. That is, of course, except when I was at the flag football fields. Once August rolls around, my new hang out becomes the football field until November. During the winter months, it all slows down and our schedule is free. Just kidding. It's basketball season.
Many parents of school age children can probably relate to my schedule. When my boys were younger I looked ahead to these years with dread and felt sorry for the parents who seemed to spend all their free time watching their children play sports. I'd drive by the football field and think, "Those poor parents!" I was wrong. I feel lucky, blessed and deeply appreciative to be able to spend so much time on the sidelines watching my babies grow and develop into young men; young men with goals, drive, confidence and true, lasting friendships.
My boys get a lot out of their busy sports schedules but so do I. Being a sports mom continues to teach me new lessons every day, many of which are applicable to all other aspects of life: things like learning how and when to bite my tongue (because no one wants to get ejected from their child's game by an ump), how to pack a bag that is prepared for anything, how to clean grass stains from white baseball pants, how to deodorize football pads and how to cram an insane amount of sports equipment and coolers into a tiny Toyota Prius. You know what else I get? A Mom Squad.
Some of you may think that a Mom Squad is a group of 40-something moms driving around town in mini-vans looking for children to scold. While this isn't something I would put past my Mom Squad, it's not an accurate description. A Mom Squad is the group of moms (and Dads too!) that sit at your child's games day after day, night after night, weekend after weekend. You can find them in their fold up chairs along the ball field, beside their child's dugout, under portable pop-up tents and seated on back-protecting fold up cushion seats on the basketball court bleachers. They almost always have large tote bags with them; filled with everything from snacks to extra cups (not the kind you drink out of - the other kind) to medicine to ice packs to cooling towels to extra clothes to a bowl that was left at the last team get-together. They can coordinate a team meal in a matter of minutes and can re-hydrate and cool off 12 children like a team of professionals.
Clearly the Mom Squad comes in handy, right? Isn't that cute? Yes. It really is. But, a Mom Squad is so much more than handy and cute, my various Mom Squads over the past few years have taught me some pretty invaluable life lessons. Before I get to the list, let me first acknowledge the rampant sexism and gender bias contained within this post. I mean no offense by any of it and am deeply grateful to the sideline Dads and the sports moms who know far more than I do about the world of sports. Onto the list:
1. THE VALUE OF SUPPORT
Moms in the Mom Squad don't cheer only for their child. They cheer for everyone's child - even children on the opposing team. They know what to say to encourage my child behind the plate, in the field, on the mound, on the line of scrimmage and at the foul line. They know when he is down and needs support. They know when he needs to hear silence. They get him. They are my surrogates when I am not at games, texting me scores and play updates and providing color detail like "he's smiling soo big after that hit!" Their support is not just for my son but for my entire family and I had no idea how important it would be to have such support in my family's life.
2. THERE IS CRYING IN BASEBALL (and football and basketball...)
Despite what Tom Hanks may say, there IS crying in baseball. Sometimes there is lots of crying - both from the kids and the parents. The Mom Squad is there to hand out tissues, give hugs, provide words of encouragement and, if needed, whisk you away behind a car so you can cry without your child seeing it.
3. LAUGHTER MAKES IT BETTER
Let's face it, some of these games can be long. Sometimes there are double-headers. Sometimes we travel long distances. Sometimes our boys get very very smelly. Sometimes our team just can't catch a break and we have a win-less season. The Mom Squad can find a way to laugh together and make everything a little easier.
4. SOMETIMES SILENCE IS GOLDEN
Sometimes we just don't feel like crying, laughing or talking. Sometimes we just want to show up at the game in our ugly sweats, hair in a messy bun and not talk to anyone. You know what? It's ok. The Mom Squad is there to give you space without judgement or pressure. They get it. They've been there.
5. BEST PLACES FOR POST-GAME DINNERS
If you want to know the restaurant with the cheapest kid's meal options, shortest wait times or most flexible check-splitting policies, ask your nearest Mom Squad. They know it all!
6. HOW TO GIVE SOME KICK ASS CHEERS
A few years ago the only way I knew how to cheer from the sidelines was to meekly clap and yell "Yay!" and "Go!" Now I've got a whole slew of cheers and phrases to yell. I also know how and when to institute things like the wave and changing seats to help our boys rally. I've also learned when NOT to yell (maybe I learned that from the coaches...).
7. THE RULES OF SPORTS
The Mom Squad is where you can go to ask the ever important sideline questions like "What's that mean?" "Why is he out?" "Why is the game over?" Together you try to crack the signals from the coaches and learn the signs from the umps and refs. Watching each other learn a rule or sports concept that is new to us is exciting! You know what's even more exciting? Figuring out the score without a score board and being correct!
8. THE BEAUTY OF TOURNAMENT VACATIONS
Summer baseball means weekends of baseball tournaments. Mom Squads know how to find and suggest destination tournaments which will require a weekend away with other baseball families. The coaches LOVE it! (<---insert sarcasm there)
9. FAMILY ISN'T ALWAYS BLOOD
So many of the women I have met at the ball field have become my family. My sisters. Aunts to my children. Their children have become brothers and sisters to my children. They are the people that we invite to our house even when our house is a messy disaster. They are the people that we let see the real us. They are our family.
10. HOW TO EMBRACE THE NOW
Someone recently told me that children are gifts that we can only keep for 18 years and after 9 years, we are halfway through our time with them. She was right. Childhood is short. So so short. Someday my sons will beg me to avoid their practices, not sit so close to their game and not cheer so loudly for him. So, for now, me and the rest of the Mom Squads out there will continue to spend our free time watching our babies grow into young men before our eyes. All of the rest of the stuff can wait. We are going to embrace the now.
Parenting is one of life's greatest challenges and greatest rewards. Here we explore all aspects of parenting from pregnancy onward, highlighting both the struggles and the triumphs.