Suddenly a soccer mom

I always swore that we wouldn’t get sucked into it.  I really thought that we wouldn’t end up revolving our lives around a massive list of sports and after school activities for the kids.  I’ve always believed that kids (well, at least my kids, at least) really need, and benefit from, unplanned, unstructured, downtime for them to unwind, rest, or play creatively, so we’ve always tried to make that a priority.  Benjamin had a daily nap until he was almost 6, too, and it was great for him.  I expected Liam to most likely do the same.

743But now, suddenly, I’m a “soccer mom”.  B is enrolled in three different after school activities, plus swimming lessons on Saturdays.  Each day’s plans for the whole family are worked around these activities, including meals, naps (or lack thereof) for Liam, and even Dan’s work schedule.  Regular followers of this blog might have noticed an unusually long hiatus over the past 4 weeks — we haven’t been sick, I’ve just been too busy to write at all.  (My post from late September for Liam’s birthday was written back before his birthday … but it took me a week to get it posted, and this is the first one I’ve written since then.)

Our days are a whirlwind.  Every moment from the time my alarm goes off until the boys are in bed is specifically planned.  Each minute has a purpose, and our schedule has very little flexibility.  If not for my bus and train trips, and the luxury of (sometimes) joining the family for meals, most days I would not sit down from 6:30 a.m. until at least 8:30 at night.

This whole thing kind of took me by surprise.  It happened kind of by accident.  I didn’t mean to sign us up for so much.  I didn’t expect B to get into so many of the activities he was interested in, and I wasn’t sure he’d enjoy them all as much as he is.  But, as it turns out, he’s having a great time, learning new stuff, and making new friends.  Liam, who can sometimes be inflexible and intractable in his own right, seems, surprisingly, to enjoy our daily trips to pick up B, and he is handling the loss of some of his naps much better than I expected.  For Dan & I, this new schedule means keeping a tighter rein on our own activities — meals have gotten less complex, we’re getting to bed earlier, and our regular TV times have entirely disappeared.  We’ve kind of gone from 0-60 on this whole school thing.

But, though it was unintentional and it is a bit overwhelming, in a way I’m kind of enjoying it.  It’s exhausting, both physically and mentally, to balance this many items on our schedule, but there’s a great deal of satisfaction in seeing B learn and enjoy so many things.  (Though I do have a tendency to look for the upside to any situation, so maybe I’m just finding the positives because I’m looking for them.)  Also, this is temporary — it’s for a semester, not forever.  B has already expressed a desire to drop swim lessons after he can swim across the pool unassisted (my own standard for him being “done” learning to swim), and we’ll see how many of the activities he may choose to continue with (and which he’ll be able to get into) next semester.  I’m still not sure that this packed-full schedule is really “us”, but it’s certainly another kind of adventure.

For now, we’re getting through it, enjoying it, and gaining a whole new appreciation for our precious few moments of free time.  I also have a newfound respect, and a bit of awe, for the families who keep up this kind of schedule for years and years.  Also, I have a huge backlog of planned and partially written blog posts, and I’ll get around to those eventually … but for now, this soccer mom will probably be commuting more and composing less.


Benjamin’s school, being generally wonderful, has a full complement of after-school sports and activities for the kids to participate in.  They have about 50 different things that the kids can do after school — everything from Cub Scouts to soccer to rugby to crafts to the math club.  Lots of choices.  And the activities are, apparently, wildly popular — there is an online registration setup which is one of those things where you lurk on the website until the moment the page opens, sign up the instant that you can and hope you get a spot.  Since it wasn’t the kind of thing that allows for indecision, I set aside the time at noon the day of the sign up to be at my computer to pounce on the sign-ups, and sat down with B the night before to talk through the options and discuss his preferences.

As we were going through, at first he wasn’t sure he wanted to do anything.  He said that school is busy enough, and maybe he didn’t want to stay after school even once a week.  And I was totally cool with that.  But, I wanted to be sure, and as we went through the list, he latched on to both gymnastics and soccer as the things he most wanted to do, which didn’t surprise me — those were the two I most expected him to pick.  But then, we got to golf.  And he said, “No, that’s it. I want to do golf.  I want to learn how to be even better than Uncle Peter and Uncle Adam.”

He’s never golfed before, so it was a total surprise that he was so intensely interested in it.  I have no idea if he’ll enjoy it (and neither does he), but I love the enthusiasm and confidence in his choice.  And I just keep smiling over the idea of my little guy bonding with his uncles, an ocean away, over this game that they love and which hopefully he will be able to share with them when we are all together.

Because of the way the sign ups were done, I went ahead and signed him up for all 3 of his favorites — golf, gymnastics AND soccer — because I wasn’t sure whether we’d get a spot in any of them.  As it turns out, we got a spot in each, and now B is into the idea of all 3, so we’ve gone from maybe not wanting to do any to committing to 3 days per week for the semester.  In truth, I think he’s going to love them all, and I’m excited to see which (if any) kindle a true passion in him.  But, in particular, the idea of him out golfing with my brothers one day is pretty special.  I might be hoping, just a little, that he loves golf most of all.

Play ball!

Today, we did something we never do — we played softball.  To be accurate, Dan played softball, and Liam, Benjamin and I watched.  Some coworkers of Dan’s put a game together and, in the interest of being social and making new friends, we went.

I don’t know what it is about me, but absolutely anytime I attempt to be a spectator at anything, I end up getting drafted into some sort of duty role.  I don’t know if I look responsible, or I just look like a sucker, but it never fails.  I’ll end up collecting tickets, selling concessions, taking pictures, serving beverages or some sort of other useful task.  Honestly, it doesn’t bother me that much:  I’m more of a doer than a watcher, anyway, but I wish I understood why this happens to me, simply so I could turn it off when I prefer to sit back and relax.

Inevitably, within the first three batters of the first inning, I was asked to help with scoring.  I can barely keep up with baseball when it’s on tv and being narrated for me — this was an impossible task, made more challenging by the fact that apparently softball rules are different than baseball rules, and we had team captains from Australia and (I think) Ireland, and team members from all over the world, so even amongst the players there was some discussion about the rules and scoring.  Add to that the fact that I have a 2 year old and an infant to look after:  I was hopeless.  I managed to keep track of the runs, at least, and the batting order, but after about an inning and a half, I was relieved of my scoring duties.

Which really was a good thing, because I also ended up playing child wrangler for the day.  Two of the other players had brought their preschoolers (both younger than Benjamin but older than Liam) and since they were both playing, and I was playing with Benjamin, I ended up playing with (and supervising the play of) the kids for part of the day.  In this case, the responsibility fell to me because I can’t help myself.  I’m not likely to let Benjamin run off and play with two kids younger than he is in a place I don’t know surrounded by people I don’t know, so, of course, I was with him the entire time.  It makes that I would become the de facto referee of the children, since I was around.  (I am also fighting, with myself, a sometimes losing battle against being a “helicopter 023parent”, which doesn’t help matters, either.)  All in all, Benjamin had a really good time playing and making new friends, so it was energy well spent.  Also, I got to know the other kids a little which was nice (especially because they’re likely to become regular playmates of Benjamin’s).

It was a good day.  I got to meet some people and speak in English all afternoon.  Benjamin made some new friends, got to throw the ball around with Dan for a bit, ran the bases, and got a medal at the end for being so well behaved.  Liam was adored by all and was thoroughly photographed by several attendees.  Dan turns out to be surprisingly good at softball (and I think his team won).  It wasn’t quite the restful afternoon at the ball field I had envisioned.  But, I have to admit, it may be, just a little, because I really like things better that way.