By Nathalie Hardy • Columnist • 

Turns out being a soccer mom is a team sport

It took me nearly six years to get here, but judging by my calendar, and the clutter in my car, it seems I’ve rounded a corner. It seems my minivan and I are now headed toward some new adventures in motherhood.

Let me give you a hint. It involves cleats, shin guards and Saturday mornings spent on muddy sidelines.

Yes, I’ve finally arrived. I’m officially a soccer mom.

And while “soccer mom” is an expression that vexes some, I’ve been looking forward to it. That’s because I’m okay with being in a box so long as I’m the one who checks it.

Say I were standing in the lobby of life when someone handed me a clipboard and said, “Check all that apply.” I could check daughter, wife, mother, friend, sister, woman and writer.

Now, let’s say under each of those featured a series of subcategories with adjectives modifying each role. I could cheerfully check the box identifying me as a mom who is enthusiastic about supporting her kids’ activity of choice. And please note the singular use of the word “activity.”

Of course, my initiation into being a soccer mom didn’t exactly match the vision in my head.

For starters, we kicked off Sam’s athletic career by missing his first practice. It seems I missed the message telling me that practice was starting the next day.

That message continued on to note he would have games every Saturday for the next few months, along with two practices a week, starting at the same time I typically get off work.

Which brings me to the next unexpected element of being a soccer mom: At our house, it’s a team sport — a relay race, if you will — to get the kid on the field on time.

When I imagined what motherhood would be like, I was missing a few things, including a kid and a crystal ball.

What I didn’t know was that I wouldn’t be home with the boys any more by the time they were this age. So I wasn’t expecting being a soccer mom to include letting their dad be their dad.

When I stayed home with the boys, all things kid-related fell under my umbrella. I sometimes forget there are two of us holding the umbrella now. I always pictured my husband at the games, and kicking the ball around the backyard, but I didn’t factor him into the other logistics.

When I launched into a freak-out session about how Sam was going to get to practice, when I would still be at work, my husband calmly suggested he take on that responsibility. In fact, he said he’d be happy to.

All he asked is that I see that all the gear was packed up and ready to go. So I still get to play a key role — making sure the shin guards, cleats, socks and shorts are packed, along with a snack and water bottle.

I had some of that stuff ready to go by the second practice. I say some, because while practice was starting I was still parked on Highway 99W in Dundee, ripping the packaging off the special soccer socks I’d completely forgotten about until my lunch break.

When I made it to the field, I noticed Sam didn’t have any water in his water bottle.

Sam shrugged. “You forgot to put water in it, Mom.”

I pointed out that, like Jesus, I preferred to help those who helped themselves. I also noted this was my first time having a kid in sports.

“You’re doing pretty good,” he said, before grabbing his soccer ball.

I’d meant to write his name on it with a permanent marker. But on closer inspection, I saw it was already labeled in my husband’s familiar handwriting.

The guy’s doing pretty good, too.

Whereas I once slept through Saturday mornings entirely, I am now on the sidelines with my husband, cheering on the kid in the orange cleats.

Sam said he picked them because they were my favorite color. But mostly, it was because we waited until the last minute, and there wasn’t much to choose from that fit.

Minivan, check. Soccer gear, check. I guess now all that I’m missing is the stick figure family decal for my back window.

I do, however, have mud-flap style stickers of a pony-tailed girl reading, which tells people that I also fall into the box of “reader.” And I can also check these subcategories: avid reader, poly-reader and the kind of reader who writes in the margins.

Contact Nathalie Hardy at nhardy@newsregister.com.

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