For a moment today, I was in a public place, and I was jumping and screaming and clapping and I thought—what has gotten into me? And I’ll tell you what. Park district kindergarten soccer. That’s what. Before you think less of me, before you peg me as that mom, let me tell you. No one is considering myself “that mom” more than I am at this time. I never imagined myself to be jumping and screaming and clapping publicly. At kindergarten soccer. Where they don’t even keep score. But I was swept up.

This is what swept me away. I signed Wally up for soccer and was hoping to have a few minutes every Saturday in the fall to chat with friends and enjoy the beautiful fall weather and to not be the one in charge of my kid. I wanted good company, and maybe a few cute pictures of my son in an oversized solid-colored T-shirt.

And the shirt did not disappoint. He was assigned to the Penguins. (I know, right? What are we supposed to do with that? What is our team rally cry? Waddle waddle?) His colors were purple and white, which a few moms of the boys noted as interesting, but I thought nothing of it—I was raised in the small farming town of Hampshire, Illinois where our mascot was the “Whip-purs”. (A cat with a whip. Don’t even get me started.) That was short for “White” and “Purple”, so when my son first donned the jersey it just felt right.

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I wanted a cute picture, and I wanted one goal for his personal satisfaction. This didn’t, for a while, seem likely. Although he is a fast kid and looks like a 7 year old (thank you, Dutch roots on his father’s side), and although he totally loves the idea of soccer, and although he claims to be very very good at it—he claims wrong. Maybe because of his self-proclaimed expertise, he doesn’t feel the need to practice or play around with or take any tips at all from his dad—who played soccer through college on a scholarship. Because my son is already “so good at soccer.” The one soccer camp he went to this summer taught him everything he needed to know (everything he already knew before he went, by the way). He was born knowing, I guess.

I did not have any faith in those 5 days he had played before he joined this team, and my guess was accurate. After watching the first game, my diagnosis: Beginner. Symptom: No ball handling skills. Treatment: Playing more than just 5 times in your life. Another potential symptom may be no goals for him this year.

But I really wanted him to score. I’m not sure where this deep desire came from. All I can think of to explain it is my only memory of soccer as a kid. (I should say my only happy memory—I have a distinct memory of having the wind knocked out of me by a neon green and yellow ball to the gut from an older boy on our multi-age, co-ed team.) My only happy memory of soccer is the one time I had control of the ball, running it from one mid-field to the next, wondering in amazement the whole time that this was happening. I had the ball. And I was kicking it down the field. And people were cheering. (Perhaps they were cheering, “Run the other way! You are going to the wrong goal!” But if so, that’s not what I remember about it.) That’s all the glory little un-athletic me needed. Just those few kicks, and I remember it the rest of my life.

And although I thought he would love a goal, I honestly didn’t care that much. I mostly wanted to go and talk to my friends. But that first game, I sat for a bit and watched, and it dawned on me. I was a mom watching my kid play soccer on a team. This was a momentous first. And it was fun! The kids ran around in a huge clump around the ball. The clump moved from one end of the field to the other for an hour. They mostly were all heart and no skill, which was the most precious combination of two things to witness together. I realized something I never understood as a kid, and didn’t even expect until experiencing it myself—these games could be great entertainment for the parents.

You never know what you are going to see in kindergarten park district soccer. One boy is scoring on his own goal. A girl is taking a ball to the face and kind of looking around in wonder after it happens. A ref is pausing game play to give the little ones tips. A more skilled boy is jumping to let the ball go through his legs so the teammate behind him can take the ball down the field. Another skilled boy is tired of his pathetic teammates so he passes the ball in to himself. A boy is crying because his dad is the coach and he won’t let him play goalie at the beginning of the game. A boy is falling from a slight bump and being so “injured” that he can’t get up. A girl is seeing that, and a few minutes later being bumped and collapsing herself. (This happened today, and my Father-in-Law said, “Uh oh, another one died!”)

So here I am, cheering from the sidelines for these kids—for all of them. Because perhaps this moment is important—perhaps it’s something they will remember forever. And if not, they are at least giving me an hour of fun on a Saturday, and I want to reward them for that.

And then halfway through our third game, Wally gets the ball, and I am screaming, and he takes it down the field, and I am screaming, and he kicks and kicks and I think, this will be the moment, and it is, and he scores, and I am jumping and screaming and clapping, and thinking “What has gotten into me?”, and I am making a fool of myself, and I am so proud. Wally—the boy who I was sure was waiting for this moment his whole life—did a fist pump and got over it and ran down the field. (Later that day, in his review of his favorite memory from the game, he’d tell me that during the game one of his friends tried to punch him and he ducked just in time to get out of the way. He would demonstrate it with a slow-mo punch to his own head that nearly misses and everything. Lifelong memories here, people.)

Seeing his nonchalant reaction, I quieted. I sat down. And I reflected. My diagnosis: Soccer mom with unfulfilled personal dreams. Symptom: Cheering way to loud. Treatment: Reign it in, woman. Reign. It. In. Take a lesson from your son, here, and be cool. Because seriously, this is kindergarten park district soccer.

Go Penguins! Waddle, waddle.