If your children play sports, you probably know all to well how hectic life can get during sports seasons. My children get a lot out of their busy sports schedules but so do I.
Being a sports parent 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;
how to cram an insane amount of sports equipment and coolers into the back of my car.
You know what else I get from all these years of youth sports?
Sideline Parents: the parents, grandparents, and other family members of the other children on your own child's sports teams. You spend weekend after weekend, year after year beside them during your children's games and, if you are lucky, your sideline parents can teach you a lot:
1. THE VALUE OF SUPPORT
Sideline Parents 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 Sideline Parents are 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 athletes get very very smelly. Sometimes our team just can't catch a break and we have a win-less season. The Sideline Parents 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, grungy baseball cap, and not talk to anyone. You know what? It's ok. The Sideline Parents 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 Sideline Parents. 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 kids rally. I've also learned when NOT to yell (maybe I learned that from the coaches...).
7. THE RULES OF SPORTS
The Sideline Parents are 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. Sideline Parents know how to find and suggest destination tournaments which will require a weekend away with other baseball families.
9. FAMILY ISN'T ALWAYS BLOOD
So many of the parents 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
Childhood is short. So so short. Someday your children will beg you to avoid their practices, not sit so close to their game and not cheer so loudly for him. So, while we can, all of us Sideline Parents 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.
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