I noticed a change in my son’s focus shortly after he turned six years old. Things that had previously fascinated him no longer held his interest. His conversations were different—he spoke an unfamiliar language. His new passion left me disoriented and desperate to hold on to the close mother-son relationship we’d had up to that point. So, I became…
…a soccer mom.
THE LENGTHS WE GO TO STAY CONNECTED
Not that kind of soccer mom (the days of hauling my son to soccer practice and games were gone by that point). No, I became a different kind of soccer mom—the kind that learns the ins and outs and the whos and whats of the beautiful game just to keep up with her soccer-obsessed child.
I’ve been at it for twelve years now, which means I’ve earned the equivalent of a high school diploma with my soccer knowledge. If only I put in as much dedication studying for my college degree, I could’ve graduated with honors!
This is the type of thing we do as modern parents, right? We immerse ourselves in our kid’s interests. Which is why, in our home, parenting is a never-ending quest to maintain a connection with our kids. We strive not to smother, not to be overbearing, but to be connected.
In our home, connection has always been paramount. We place huge emphasis on connection since we’re a military family that deals with the flip-side—separation—all too often. Stationed overseas and often on my own as the primary caregiver for our young son, building the foundation for connection falls mainly on me. I’m solely responsible for keeping us all as sane as possible. In my son’s earlier years, that meant dedicating myself to mastering the names of toy tank engines and cartoon characters. Now my son’s new fixation was soccer? I knew next to nothing about it. Imagine my panic at not being able to add much more to our conversations besides “uh, huh” and “oh, really?”
My husband, on the other hand, spoke this new language fluently. On the nights when he was home, dinner conversation turned to topics like: Who was most likely to win the World Cup? Or, what did they think of fill-in-the-blank’s new jersey design? Meanwhile, I was at a complete loss. I sat there as a mute bystander while the two of them went on with their rapid fire observations…and that wore on me. I missed being part of the conversation.
So, I did something about it.
BECOMING A SOCCER FAMILY: FILLING MY ALREADY CROWDED BRAIN
I was a complete soccer novice, but realized fairly quickly that learning the national teams would be far easier than diving into the minutiae of club level sports. Lucky for me, that first year of soccer-all-the-time in our house coincided with the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. I recognized the big names like Messi, Ronaldo, and Beckham*, so then I only needed to remember which country they played for and their odds of winning. With repetition, I picked up the scores and who was favored to win. My efforts delighted my son and my growing interest in his passion gave us something to talk about.
I paid a small price for stuffing my brain with soccer knowledge and it rewarded me with plentiful dividends. For example, my son reciprocated my deep dive into soccer by subjecting himself without complaint to my music playlists for 17 years. Now he’s almost as much of an aficionado of the pop band A-ha as I am. We also can talk about Dune, my favorite book, for hours. Together, we learned that connection and communication is a two-way street signaling mutual respect on behalf of both parties. Our relationship has thrived because of our shared interests.
SOCCER MOM OF THE YEAR
These days, I can tell my son that Manchester United’s Lindelof was named the captain of the Swedish national team. I update him on the newly signed players for Sacramento Republic. I even told him that Mr. Choupo, who plays for his favorite Bayern Munich, made it down to Cameroon for the Africa Cup of Nations. That tidbit, while eliciting a smile from my son over breakfast, nearly caused me to forget to write the excuse note for his prior day’s school absence.
Sometimes I wonder if all this soccer knowledge may cause me to forget something truly important someday because now that I’m well into middle age, and the brain fog that accompanies it, I’ve noticed that maintaining an encyclopedic knowledge of the soccer world comes at the cost of forgetting other things. Like, where did I put the notes for my upcoming meeting? No idea.
At least for now, though, those pieces of information residing in my overstuffed brain are doing exactly what I’d hoped for—they’ve kept my son and me connected, something I wouldn’t trade for all the brain space in the world. The utter joy I feel when I text him the results of a game or a player update and he responds with a happy face emoji and a “Thanks Mom!”—it’s all worth it. I’m a soccer mom, and that makes both of us happy.
*Having asked my son to proofread this story, he wanted to point out that David Beckham didn’t play in the 2010 World Cup due to injury—this is the level of soccer detail I live with.