RUGBY AND BEING A MOM
From the time my son, Michael, was in kindergarten he was on the sporting track to play baseball. His dad played baseball among about five other sports so the first T ball game was like watching the Red Sox win the World Series. I wasn’t sure if I had more fun watching my son try to hit the ball off the black t looking like a professional baseball player or watching Dave, his dad, my former husband.
I wasn’t much of a sports kid when I was younger. I was more on the music and arts track as back then it seemed that you were one or the other. I am not really sure if this is accurate, but my perception was this and I also think it had something to do with your own parents personal narrative. My father was never interested in sports, I never recall any sporting events playing on television or him attending any professional games with my brother or me for that matter. My mother too was never interested either and so I ended up in music classes mostly. Violin, piano, flute and even a short stint with the oboe. I was competitive in music and vying to be first seat in whatever school band I landed in.
I did have a brief attempt at middle school basketball, but this was short lived as I was not comfortable with a team sport. I actually had intense anxiety before a game, so I quickly realized that basketball was not to be. I also tried cheerleading, but in the seventies and eighties cheerleading was an addendum to a sporting event, not the full blown sporting event it has turned into at present. The only sporting event I actually competed in was gymnastics and swimming. I loved gymnastics because even though you were on a team, you were solo performing and that was my thing. (for those people who know me I am sure this is no surprise). Swimming I was never very fast at, but I did enjoy my brief time on a swim team at the Fall River, Mass Y. I think I was in third grade around eight years old and I distinctly remember the superstars on the team because they stood out due to their parents’ example of parental performance at the swim meets. When Susie (this was the rockstar’s name- she must have made a an impact on me since I recall her name with such ease) propelled forward with her stunning butterfly swim down the lane, her parents cheered and hooted in a way that felt to me the way parents were supposed to hoot and holler at their child at a sporting event. I looked over at my parents who were in attendance and I actually think I saw them roll their eyes in distaste at Susie’s parents. I think they were likely thinking that the behavior was provincial and beneath the way they were raised. They would not be “those type of parents,” surely. For me this was a defining moment in my swim career. If I wasn’t to get the bells and whistles from my parents, swimming on the swim team felt anticlimactic. Perhaps I chose music because yelling and screaming at a performance was just not part of the menu options so this gave them the free pass at not living up to my parental expectation from the get go.
When my son started playing baseball I vowed that I would be the type of parent like Susie’s parents were. Attending every game, volunteering to be a team mom, doing my share at the concession stand and most importantly cheering loud and proud at every game. Part of my personal parenting strategy was to make up for all of my own parents’ inadequacies. Of course in hindsight this wasn’t always the best strategy, but it was certainly a great jumping off point. Dave was the opposite, his parents were those type of parents who went to games, bought all the gear and really participated, hence a repeat for his own son. I had the double pleasure of watching my son over the years, but alos watching my husband watch my son and it was a thrill almost every time. I say almost because there were those occasional wincing coaching moments of impatient coaches forgetting that the kids were eight and not trying out for major league baseball.
At my son’s games, I met parents, learned what was the best type of chair to buy to bring to the games, how to dress warmly enough, and for the next eleven years of his schooling, kindergarten through tenth grade, Dave and I went to almost every game and attended with vigor. We were both bummed when we noticed Michael starting to lose his enthusiasm for the game after tenth grade as I watched him lie around the house when he really should have been practicing for tryouts. As a result he got cut from the team after his second round of his junior year of high school. I wasn’t sure who I felt worse for, Michael or Dave or Michael having to tell Dave. Just like wishing I knew when the last hand hold or good night mommy hug was to be, I wish I had known that the previous year’s last game was to be, because just like that, my career as sports attending mom was over. No more complaining about the having to leave a campground to get to a game (we were teaching commitment to our young six year old, I laugh at us in reflection thinking back on how much credence we gave to it all) no more jumping up and down because of a great hit or or game saving catch. No more parental get togethers after the game and no more concession stand volunteering. I had to admit, I had some withdrawl, but I was happy to see Michael spread his wings a bit and take up golf, actually get a job because he was now free from the ties of a team and take up sailing. I think that the cut from the team was a blessing and it seemed that it was something Michael may have either consciously or unconsciously wanted. He took his senior year and the first part of his freshman year of college off from team anything. He was free.
When I got the call that he decided to give Rugby a try, I was a little startled. Rugby? Was it because I had taken him to London for his winter break? Why Rugby? I mean he is 5’7 and not a big kid like a traditional rugby player. Rugby doesn’t wear any protection either to speak of, but off he went to join the URI Rugby club. He started last spring and was hooked. This year, his sophomore year, he went to the Rugby camp that the salty dog Rugby coaches organized a week before school started. Last night I attended my first, his second game of the fall season on the B team and was at home again. Talking to a mom getting to know where to buy Rugby paraphilia because I now must have a URI Rugby shirt and I felt like the good old days again. I was transported back to the early years of glorious parent sporting event attendance. I didn’t realize how much I missed the camaraderie and the excuse to get out of the house to attend something totally out of my radar and comfort zone. I have no idea how this game works, but as I watched my son screech down the field, get tackled and protected I found myself in that familiar thrilling place of parenting like the good old days.
And I loved it. GO URI RUGBY.