This is my last year standing on the sidelines at our local high school. My middle son is graduating in a month, and after he graduates, everything will change. No more sending out weekly emails to the team. No more frantic texting with the coach. No more trying to get the captains to read books about leadership. No more brainstorming about fundraising or creating yearbooks. The very word ‘sidelines’ implies ‘not directly involved’. No, I have never tried to put on a lacrosse helmet or worn the pads. I have never stepped onto the field unless I was chasing after my son with a water bottle, calling after him to please stay hydrated. I have, however, participated very actively in my sideline role and have grown to love being a spectator.
It was on these sidelines that I connected with other parents, talked about the tryouts and wondered how the season would unfold. It was the place where we discovered which part of the field to stand on, and to bring things like blankets, umbrellas and snacks with us. Just in case. It was where we talked about what needed to be done for the team and tried to rope in unsuspecting volunteers. It’s where we laughed and caught up, watched the game, and occasionally missed goals because we were scrolling through our phones. It’s where I became infamous for my multiple layers of expedition-weight clothing. My outfits became such a topic of conversation, I finally started including the weather forecast in my emails along with recommended attire for the parents watching the games. Not directly involved, but still a part of so much.
There has been tension on the sidelines. It’s inevitable. A player misses a pass or a goal, parents groan in agony as if someone just demolished their car, people whisper, and feelings are hurt. There have been games that have been painful to watch from the sidelines, whether it’s because the other team is that much better or the other parents’ cheering feels like a vocal ensemble of the word ‘rude’. Just like the players, those of us on the sidelines have to brace ourselves for the game and make sure we’re prepared too.
I learned something new at the last game, which I wanted to share with anyone who might be having a hard time fitting into your role as a spectator. I get it. Sometimes it can just be too much. Between figuring out where to sit, dealing with the parents from the other teams, knowing what to wear, sometimes standing on the sidelines can be a very difficult position to play. Want to know the perfect way to make your way through a game?
babies & puppies.
Repeat after me:
The next time things get too heated out there, here’s your game plan. I want you to locate the nearest stroller or diaper bag and find the baby. Don’t look to your left. Don’t worry about the other people around you. Just find that baby, and once you find that baby, you’re going to love the baby. You’re going to take care of that baby. You’re going to talk to the baby’s parents and make new friends.
And then, the baby starts crying. Now what?
Here’s what. Pass the baby back to the parents and quickly sidestep until you find a puppy. Unlike babies, puppies don’t ever seem to get tired in public, so one little puppy could occupy you for the rest of the game. If that baby or puppy happens to belong to someone on the other team, it’s ok. Babies & puppies have a way of reminding all of us on the sidelines that we are all just parents who love our kids and want them to play to the best of their abilities.