By Jeanne Marie Laskas
Sunday, July 2, 2006
Embrace the cliche. Be the cliche. Allow yourself to become engulfed and at one with the cliche. My God, this is downright Zen. Why in the name of Tao did I put up such a fight for so long?
I am at my kid's soccer practice. I am sitting in one of those spindly fold-up sling chairs that all the soccer moms have. It has a cup holder. A cold Diet Pepsi is in the cup holder. In my lap I have a nest of nachos from the concession stand. Smothered are these nachos in the gooey, runny yellow stuff we have learned to call cheese. Better living through chemicals. I am also doused in bug spray.
This is good. I have shed my principles, and it feels so good.
One year ago I was superior. It was all about the fold-up sling chairs. I vowed to never sit in one of those things that so symbolized to me the essence of soccer momhood, whatever that was. I would take my kids to soccer practice, but I would not become one of them. The Soccer Moms. I sat on the grass, endured all the little prickers stabbing my skin and all the little bugs I had to slap, slap, slap and kill, their little insect bodies smashed upon my calves. I scoffed at the parents in the chairs. Some of the chairs had little ottomans attached, and some had umbrellas providing shade.
Back then I thought: How ridiculous. You people need a life that is about more than finding the perfect seating arrangement for the 45 minutes you have to sit and watch your kids run through some soccer drills. Real moms tough it out. Now I think: Damn, where do I get one of those deluxe chairs? And: I want a minivan.
So much is happening. So much shedding of former assumptions and expectations, and so much surrender. Here comes the ball. A girl just missed the goal by a very long shot, and we, the people in the chairs, are in the line of fire. Last year, I would have gotten up. I would have run to catch that ball, and I would have thought about passing it with a bounce off my head to the team, which I would have decided not to do, because I never played soccer and none of the sports I ever played used heads. But the point is, I would have thought about it. I would have been part of things. I would have preferred to imagine myself as a player rather than a soccer mom, an idle observer, a person in a chair with nothing more important to do.
How ridiculous. I am not a player. I'm not a participant in the World Cup or even its saucer. I'm a mom on the sidelines. Sidelined. It's hard to accept, but once you accept it, I'm telling you, you are free. Free to dream, for the first time in your life, of a little button in your car that you can push and make a big side door slide open, through which your kids can climb with many of their friends and exist back there, in the way-back, talking their bubblegum talk while you sit up front, alone, eating the french fries they didn't want. Just a few. Hey, you forgot how delicious a french fry could be.
A minivan! Some of my friends hyperventilated when I announced that I wanted a minivan, the very symbol of soccer momhood, whatever that is. My husband is among them. He says, "What is happening to you?" He says, "This is not who I married." I make the point that he's the one who bought me the spindly fold-up sling chair, a Mother's Day present, and why didn't he get one with a pop-out ottoman? He's due here any minute. He's going to sit on the prickly grass, swatting bugs. The superior life is not the good life.
Now they are passing out forms for soccer pictures, which they'll take before the next big game. For $39 I could get the photo plaque with 3-by-5 individual, 5-by-7 team and wallets. For $8.50 I could get the "Little People" magnet. Last year I thought this was such a racket. This year I think it's such an opportunity. I will buy it all, and I will do what once was unthinkable: I will get the 3-inch button. A real soccer mom wears a big button, a glossy picture of her kid, smiling, kneeling by a soccer ball. I will attach it to my purse. No -- I have thought of something even better. Here comes the husband, and I will tell him. I show him the form. "I'm getting the button," I say. "And I am going to attach it to the visor of my minivan!"
"We're not getting a minivan," he says. I hear his voice as if from deep inside some long and miserable tunnel. I barely hear him at all. "Please don't get the button . . ."
I tell him I also need some peppy bumper stickers that joke about how much trouble my kids are, and about honor roll and band practice. And a big soccer ball magnet I can put on the tailgate. "I want it all, baby," I tell him. "I want it all."
Jeanne Marie Laskas's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.