I pulled my kid out of soccer so I could keep going to the gym. There was a gnarled mess of other reasons that all sent me into a whirling gyre of future-panic, my brain’s preferred strain of anxiety, but it was losing access to my twice-weekly boot camp class that pushed me over the edge.
A different type of person might have given it up, just for a season, and here I mean the literal climate phenomenon caused by axial tilt, not the way momfluencers use “season” to mean “phase of life.” But I have given up so much already, to motherhood, sure, and willingly!, but also to this dulled, strangled version of life we’ve been living for the last year and a half.
And it’s not as though I am depriving my kid of his life’s great passion. I mean, he calls it “soccer ball game.”
My irl friends know that part of my parenting brand (ha gag sorry) is not doing activities, extra curriculars, whatever you want to call them. My kids are little. I can get away with this. I guess there was technically the time right after Jane was born that my mother-in-law gifted us tumbling classes for Desi so that he wouldn’t feel shunted aside by the new baby, and he clearly took to the structured play element super well:
Aside from that, it’s been six blissful years of not being on my kids’ schedule, unless you include the doctor appointments (teeth, rest of body), daycare, the early mornings, the interrupted nights…..ha ha ha ha ha.
Then this summer, I started comparing my kid’s life to my own. At age six, I started taking piano lessons in my neighborhood from a woman with penciled-on silent film eyebrows and a cloud of terrifying dachshunds that pursued me, barking, until she swept them with her stockinged feet into the kitchen and shut the door.
I wanted this for my son as well, apparently, so we let him choose guitar or piano and he chose guitar. His lessons would start a few weeks after his sixth birthday. I was excited for him and pleased with myself. Well well well. Aren’t I a mom. Music lessons. Some real childhood shit.
So there’s one activity. Seal broken. Then I started seeing signs around town for youth soccer and felt a bolt of inspiration. My kid was coming home from camp, outdoor day camp in the suffocating mid-Atlantic heat, still zooted to hell, climbing the walls of our house, fighting bedtime. He was a dense, limitless core of energy, like an amulet that good guys are trying to keep from bad guys in a Marvel movie.
Youth soccer felt like a protective spell I could cast over the whole family. I signed him up, sourced free cleats and shin guards from friends, and waited for fall. Again, here I was compromising my own personal ethic of not doing things, but I was so pleased. I knew he’d be good at soccer and he needed the confidence boost since learning to read was torture and he’d had some friend dust-ups at camp. And maybe he would sleep.
Nick, who, for what it’s worth is always more of a participator than I am, was polite in his disapproval. “Seems like so much stuff.”
Summer turned to fall and I got the first email from the coach. Practice would be two days a week, then games would start up. Hahaha what the fuck. By now I had been forced back into my physical workplace and Nick was back in the classroom teaching face to face for the first time since spring semester 2020. Desi was in school five days a week again. We were having to get ourselves places, “all of a sudden,” and how do I put this undramatically… it felt like a creeping, shapeless asphyxiation. A gas leak.
Underpinning all of this is the fact that I’m real fuckin’ pregnant, due this fall, carrying out my final weeks as an unsteady and breathless person “only” responsible for two minor children. Since I am not creative enough to imagine all the richness this third child will bring to our lives, I am stuck with seeing their impending presence as a deletion instead. Less time, less energy, less freedom. Less money! Less boot camp at the Y. We’d already bought the guitar. Soccer ball game had to go.
I felt like scum for taking this away from him, this thing we’d hardly given him at all. I’d hyped him up for it all summer so he would feel invested. But as quickly as I made the decision to bail, I felt the narcotic flood of relief that is cancelling plans. “Cancelling plans is like heroin,” John Mulaney says. And getting out of kid responsibilities is the purest shit you can find. He has never once asked about soccer not happening. It was really just my thing all along.
We were a zero activities family. Now we’re a one activity family. Five people and their raucous inner lives all under one roof? Plus a cat who kills baby mice right in front of us to our horror? It’s actually a lot of activities.
Maybe this winter we’ll get a beater second car and Desi will get his shot at soccer in the spring. I can scoop up some camp chairs and we can do the whole sidelines thing with my new friend on my tit and everything.
Last week, Desi wrote a song with his guitar teacher, Mr. Bill, called “Cool Snacks and Cool Sounds.” I asked him to play it for me and he said no. But offered me this crumb: “it’s a rock and roll song.”
Like NPR, this newsletter is free but donations help. You can leave me a cash tip here or become a patron through Patreon. My lowest patron tier is $3 which is cheaper than a movie, a pack of cigarettes, or many ATM fees!
Twitter / Instagram