Chacos column: The real game is on the sidelines
Enjoy the Ride
That sideline parent is me, parading to the field with a foldable chair, carrying an iced-coffee, armed with a bag of band-aids and a salty vocabulary ready to slay the referee or opponent that meddles with our players. I am part of the 12th man, a mom yearning for the coach’s battle cry and for a friend to ask if I want a hot dog from the vendor two fields over.
I’m not alone. There are many steadfast followers to any activity their offspring plays. We share a zealous addiction for both the real game and for the adult party that occurs off to the side. I fondly remember what a fellow parent said to me while we watched our kids play together in a lacrosse tournament years ago. “This is seriously the only place I want to be on the weekends. There must be something really wrong with me.” I’m no specialist, but this mom seemed alright to me.
Thankfully, springtime sports are finally upon us. I can smell it in the air, intoxicating cut grass mixed with something ripe wafting out of my son’s gear bag. Post-quarantine practices are making a comeback and I don’t care what my kids do at this point, they just need to pick something and let me come out to play.
We’ve been away from this type of interaction for more than a year and most children crave to return to the outdoors doing what they were born to do. Quarantine showed us how naturally gifted they are at running into things, yelling louder than needed, hitting siblings, bouncing off walls, and breaking glass objects. They turn anything into a ball, a basket, a club, and a racket. Channeling their primal behaviors toward a field, a track, or a court is imperative for their survival and crucial for the sanity of the adults that care for them.
Quarantine also highlighted just how much parents missed being on the sideline. We needed our community of apostles yearning to communicate about carpool schedules and who’s bringing snacks for the next game. I wonder what eager fans are supposed to do now that we have a sanitized-for-our-safety sports season that will have many of us closely abiding COVID protocols.
I’m worried that I’m going to find myself in a corner sitting in a sea of canopy chairs (there’s even a website dedicated to them), where you sit all tucked in an actual bubble, unzipping jerkily as your team scores a goal or if you simply crave circulation from the tacos you ate the night before. I fear we will no longer be able to march up and down the bleachers, spraying spittle like rabid dogs, yelling for the referee to put on a pair of glasses after a crappy call.
What if COVID isolation turned us all into nervous introverts who are resigned to parallel play, where parents watch in proximity to one another without the ability to hear the armchair quarterback sitting next to you?
While our kids stay busy learning the more nuanced skills sports offer like teamwork and improved self-esteem, parents on the bench will have to get creative if we’re to survive the sideline season and uphold our nuanced traditions.
Rest assured, my children. Your dad and I will be out there this spring fueled by your youthful eye rolling and protestations about our sideline behavior. We’ll come complete with a cooler full of adult beverages to share with the other devotees because there’s nowhere else we’d rather be than watching you have fun.
Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.
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