After-School Sports Are Crushing My Will to Live

after school sportsI got a nice long break during the summer, but here I am again: awkwardly perched in a Coleman folding chair on the sidelines of a schoolyard field. At my feet is a bottle of water that my son runs to and gulps manfully while glancing around to check on his friends, providing me with a curt silent nod as I pepper him with chirpy Mom questions about whether he's having fun. He unceremoniously drops the bottle on my foot in his rush to return to the game, and I sigh and stand it back upright so it doesn't leak into my shoes.

My god, I am bored. SO. FREAKING. BORED. And there are -- let's check the time -- oh sweet merciful crap, we've only been here for 10 minutes. Somebody, please tell me that being a soccer mom gets better? PLEASE?


Actually, it's not even soccer this time, it's flag football. Which is, I admit, pretty adorable to watch in some ways, thanks to the ragtag bunch of second grade boys who are constantly baring their mouth guards at each other like rubber-toothed sharks and inelegantly heaving their tiny butts in the air to throw (snap? Whatever that between-the-legs move is called) the football back and forth. Plus, whenever the coach makes the kids do a drill that involves running backwards, somebody always trips and somehow tumbles into a complete reverse somersault, and that's some solid entertainment right there.

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But GOD, the sitting. The endless, endless sitting. I am too old to sprawl out in a pop-up canvas camp chair for more than 60 continuous seconds without something starting to hurt. I swear the instant we get there, I enter some sort of rift in the space-time continuum and the hour-long practice goes on for days and days on end. Just when I'm convinced that we've been there so long a glacier is going to overtake the field and smother us all, I inevitably realize we have at least 45 (billion) minutes to go.

(Yes, I could drop my kid off and happily speed away to greener pastures like some parents do, but I don't quite feel comfortable doing that yet. I mean, I'm sure he'd be FINE, but at his age, I want to be nearby just in case.)

(Plus, the space-time continuum totally works against me when I have free time. If I left, I'd have .0000004 seconds before I'd need to be back picking him up. You know what I'm talking about here, right?)

Worse than the sitting, though, is the oxygen-sucking responsibility of trying to make small talk with the other waiting moms, who all seem to have known each other for at least a decade. Maybe more like four decades: they were clearly all born on the same day, reaching with joyous newborn fingers toward each other from their hospital bassinets, secure in the knowledge that they would be BFFs forevermore.

Look, I'm not saying that's the most likely scenario, I'm just saying it seems like whatever the sport, there's always this tight-knit group of mom friends -- and then there's me, feeling like Quasimodo lurching toward their shared picnic blankets and discussions of happy hour plans. I do try to force myself to bypass my social anxiety long enough to issue a greeting of some kind, but if there's a way to smoothly insert yourself into a group without sounding like a weird robot-caveman hybrid, I have not learned this skill. It's exactly as stressful as approaching the cool kids' cafeteria table in middle school. "HI," I blare loudly. "AT LEAST WEATHER NICE TODAY, HEH HEH HEH." Then I retreat with burning cheeks to struggle with assembling my shitty camp chair and hope the earth will open up and swallow me whole as the BFF Moms return to their chatter.

Once the games get started, I find that the whole endeavor improves greatly, because at least there's some decent action going on and most of the time my husband's there with me. But then there's the SNACK DUTY. Do you remember back when we were kids, when if there was any kind of group snack after a game, it was orange slices? AND WE LOVED THOSE ORANGE SLICES? Well god forbid you hand out orange slices now, because orange slices don't have ingredient labels and who knows, maybe there's a variant of citrus that includes goddamn GLUTEN now. Also somehow the whole snack thing has evolved into providing each child with an entire pre-packaged meal including their own personal Gatorade bottle. Why do kids these days need a granola bar, a bag of chewy fruit flavored snacks, a bag of Goldfish crackers, AND a beverage -- at 2 p.m.? I do not know, I just know that everyone does this and I'm not going to add to my awkwardness by being the first mom to break the trend.

Anyway, the good news is that soon the cold, torrential rains will come, so I can distract myself by shivering and attempting to stave off the flu. Only five more weeks of flag football to go! Then there's the 5-year-old's peewee soccer, the 8-year-old's spring soccer, then baseball, and ... OH GOD.

Are you in a similar stage with young kids and after-school sports? On the love/hate spectrum, where do you land?

Image via Linda Sharps

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