The complicated roles parents play in their kids’ lives

Friday, Nov. 24, 2017 8:53 PM

We’re in Grand Junction on an immaculately green, mega soccer-field complex hemmed in by coffee-colored hills.

Rose’s team is warming up, which is an elaborate ritual consisting of ball-passing drills, hamstring stretches and smoothing hair into eye-straining ponytails. Parents congregate on the sidelines, conducting their own pre-game rituals: coffee slurping, camp chair unfolding and gathering with fellow team-parents, safe in the herd of like-minded cheerers.

A nearby concessionaire sells T-shirts that proclaim “I CAN’T keep calm, I’m a soccer mom!” I wince at the slogan and wonder, not for the first time, what my role is here. I mean, some of it is clear: shuttle amped-up girls to games, procure socially acceptable snacks (i.e., no deer heart sandwiches) and massage aching ankles post-game.

But, there’s something subtler at play. Something like how much to actually care, or what to care about, or how to show up for your kid without blurring the line between their success and yours. I’ve stood – no, paced – on the soccer sidelines feeling twinned currents of excitement and tension coursing through the circulatory system of my own motherhood, while also wondering, “Do I need to get a life?” And honestly, when Rose chases that ball like a single-focused border collie or executes that perfect pass while stalked by two hulking opponents, something hot and buzzy blooms in my heart. I think it’s pride. And it makes me a little uncomfortable.

Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran admonished parents a century ago to remember: “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. You may house their bodies, but not souls. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”

And I get it, I do. Gibran is presciently speaking to those parents who promise rewards to their kids if they score a goal. (This happens; as does the converse.) Though we may grip the bowstrings, those arrows need to fly unfettered. But the arrow also needs a ride to Grand Junction. And watching Rose on the field, released from the trajectory of her family, standing in her own power, grace and courage, aimed at her own target, I understand that she doesn’t belong to me. And also, I’ll cheer like mad when she slams the ball in the net off her team’s corner kick because that effort is life’s longing for itself.

It’s Day 2 in Grand Junction, Game 3. Rose’s team made it to the championships, meaning we’ll be driving over Red Mountain Pass at dusk. Even though I’m a latecomer to team sports, I love the fierce, ponytailed girls on Rose’s team, their seriousness on the field and their silliness off. I do strive to be like them.

Rose’s team ties their championship game, and I say to Dan, “Why is the other team celebrating while our team is so glum?” Whoops. Turns out Rose’s team lost because that goal I was still celebrating was actually offsides, a baffling soccer faux pas, which the ref apparently called in cryptic, voodoo hand signs, and which I missed entirely. The truth is Kahlil Gibran never had kids, and I could still use some practice being a soccer mom.

Reach Rachel Turiel at Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.