I vividly remember the days of AYSO just ten years ago. My oldest daughter, Abigail, had two long pigtails and an orange jersey. LG was the coach, which meant I got to help haul a mini-van’s worth of stuff to and from the parking lot and fields every Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday. I also got to tow the one and three year old sisters along. It was a tough job. A really tough job. I remember wishing soccer onto my worst enemy…it was just such a heavy load. I had to keep the little sisters entertained and off the field (even though no one probably would have noticed another kid or two in the pack of 8 that were all vying in a tight circle for the ball – they probably would have got some more laughs at all the utter cuteness going on). I used to pray she wouldn’t get hurt, but she would normally bust out of the circle with the ball and head straight to the goal. I brought the extra water for the kids who showed up without any. I was the team photographer and the team mom and the coach’s assistant. Just reminiscing those days surfaces the tears to my eyelids and that burning feeling right behind my nose as I try to hold them back.
Besides church, the way I have created the most friendships in the past 10 years, is without a doubt, on the sidelines of a soccer field. Two states, seven teams, ten pairs of cleats, fourteen coaches, hundreds of teammates, and thousands of plays made by my beautiful daughter, yet, only one mom and one dad to support her through it all. We have cheer-leaded, coached from the sidelines (to the disgruntlement of the coaches), and loved her unconditionally through the good, bad, and downright ugly. I would say we, but if you know my husband, you will know it really is just I, have even been known to humiliate her by screaming a bit too much. I’ve worked on it. A lot. She still can recall the time when she was seven and shot that ball high and made the goal in the corner pocket. It was her most amazing shot ever. She didn’t even mind my whooping and hollering over it. She still has a fear of being goalkeeper as it is her worst position. She gets too bored. She plays better on the move. Thank goodness she never plays there any more…talk about needing a Xanax. I’ve never prayed more in my life then when those offenders broke through the defense and headed toward my Abigail.
Fast forward to this week. It was Abigail’s first chance at getting onto a high school team. She has dreamed of this moment her entire recollected life. We prayed for her success. We all prayed, the whole family. She has worn Mia Hamm’s #9 as a good luck charm since she was old enough to choose. She has probably played soccer more days of her life than she hasn’t. Nerves were high. She has conditioned all summer at 7 am. Yes, ALL summer at SEVEN a.m.!! She’s only 14 and so she doesn’t even drive. Guess who had to get her to the field? Me. I am a soccer mom. It’s my duty. Just like other moms go to work and clock in and sit at their desk and push through the piles of e-mails and paper, I got up, got her up, filled the water jug, made the high protein breakfast, and made sure her soccer bag was stocked with all the soccer necessaries: cleats (check), shin-guards (check), sunscreen (“Mom, I don’t need it, my skin is protected by all these soccer tans – her poor stark white feet), IB profin (for the sore quads that no longer fit into skinny jeans), tennis shoes and regular socks (check – they don’t just play soccer when they get older, they work out HARD). Unlike other working moms I don’t get paid with money. My pay is in my daughter’s happiness.
So I’m sure you can imagine how I was feeling after all these years at working so hard, my payday was on the line, the big mean boss was going to be the deciding factor as to whether or not I would be paid at all. It was up to the boss-coach to make my daughter happy or make her life come to a screeching halt. Why did I sign up for this gig again?
The first day of try-outs went extremely well. She and her dad had forbidden me from watching, but I still stole in a bout of sneaky spying while on my bike-ride. The bike trail passes right by the field (o.k. just a half mile north) but if I watched from the upper fence I knew I wouldn’t be noticed. I could only watch for five minutes before I had to run (o.k. I rode like hell) away from it all. It was just too much to take in: my baby girl with the pony tail (ironically enough about the same length as when she started playing 10 years ago) was cruelly forced up and back the fifty yard line by the bosses. She was doing sprints, high knees, squats, push-ups. I about puked. She was good. She was smart. She was dying! But, she was tough. She was an athlete. She had earned her right to be there. I prayed in gratitude.
Day 2 of tryouts wasn’t so good. I forced myself back to bed after dropping her off. I totally ignored my other three children all morning because I had to hide away and pass the time as quickly as possible. After the three allotted hours of tryouts, I anxiously waited in the mini-van in the parking lot for her to come and give me the news on the chosen players. She really wanted to make that JV team. For fifteen minutes, I abused myself with negativity and reprimand (you should have hired a private coach, you should have paid the money for the club team, you should have bought her the fancier shin-guards.) As the other soccer moms ran to their girls, I stayed put. I didn’t want to chance crying in front of everyone if the news was bad. I watched like a hawk, Abigail’s every step, every movement, every facial expression for any sign of anything. I wanted to steel myself for whatever was to come. She seemed in good spirits? Should I be excited?
She got in the car and told me that they wouldn’t post the results until later in the day on the internet. We started toward home. As we drove, she unloaded. She didn’t do so good. She hurt her back again. My first reaction was BAD, real BAD. “Abigail, you know you have that back problem, why didn’t you stretch better? I dropped you off twenty minutes early this morning!” The tears started rolling, “The coach asked me what was wrong. He said it was all about me in June, but today I looked bad. I told him I hurt my back yesterday.” Soccer momming is brutal, “Oh Abigail, you will never make the team. They aren’t going to want someone injured.” Abigail (my daughter that we often call the mini-borg because she has very little emotion like her dad) started convulsing. I pulled the car over, I couldn’t see through my tears. “I know exactly when I hurt it yesterday, but it was just stiff, until today. I couldn’t play mom. I couldn’t play! It hurt so bad.” I prayed for guidance and strength. “Why didn’t you say anything Abigail?” “I didn’t know it was bad until today.” She had the same injury in the Spring and it was back.
We called LG at work. I told him I would get this baby girl an MRI if I had to. We had to get to the bottom of it. She has to be healthy enough to play soccer. We got her an appointment a few hours out. We waited. We cried some more. Abigail ate the lunch I made for her between sobs. The doctor had no answers. I asked him point-blank three times to give us a diagnosis and he had NOTHING to say but that she should either 1-consider physical therapy, 2-pay the thousands to scan for a very unlikely bulged disk or 3-find another sport. I e-mailed the bosses (I mean coaches) to tell them Abigail’s situation. She was certainly good enough to play on the freshman team which would be trying out tomorrow, but the doctor told us she wasn’t to have any sports for two weeks. Could they grant her a spot based on performance prior to injury? PLEASE!! I begged. Actually, I was totally neutral. I didn’t want to scare them. I prayed for mercy. Abigail without soccer would be like a cat without a tail. (We actually used to have one of those and now it is weird to see cats with tails) Maybe we could move on without soccer. Maybe.
Abigail didn’t make the JV team. We figured her soccer days were over and got her packing to head to girl’s camp. She was happy she would be able to go…she thought she would have to miss it for soccer. As the day went on, her resolve amazed me. As we took the hour and a half drive a day late to camp I told her how proud I was of her. She had handled herself like a pro. (I left out my secret thought that the pros weren’t ever going to happen) I told her I was mostly proud that she cried and that she had feelings. It sucked to see her so sad, but it was nice that she was honest about her utter disappointment. She said, “thanks mom, maybe it’s for the better, I’ve got a lot going on this year.” I knew she was lying. I prayed in parental pride and told God he was good for getting her through the day. I especially thanked him for getting me through the day. Us through one of the hardest days of our lives.
Later that evening I got a response from the Varsity coach. He was the one who had noticed Abigail suffering through that day. He said nice things that made my decade, but most importantly he said that Abigail could have a later try-out, whenever she got healthy. My knees hit the floor through the sobs. I prayed in relief. The rug magically appeared again beneath my feet. I stopped myself from driving another three hours to tell Abigail. It’s three days later and she still doesn’t know the good news. We will drive tonight to pick her up early so she can be back to soccer bright and early tomorrow morning , even if it’s just to watch from the sidelines, she still has a shot at her dream.
I cannot wait to see her face. Thank you, thank you, thank you, God Almighty.
After re-reading this tale, I wonder if she is even going to want to keep playing with her bad back. And then the soccer mom in me smacks the regular mom and tells her to quit thinking crazy.