Last Friday night, I sat on the sidelines at a soccer game as a storm rolled in. As the temperature dropped, the rain came down steadily and I huddled under my umbrella and cheered for my daughter’s team and the wind blew harder and water ran in streams down my legs and into my shoes. I hunched my shoulders and shivered and turned to one of the other moms who laughed and shook her head and said, “This is awful.” It was and when it was all over, both my daughter and I were soaking wet, muddy and cold.

That was only the first game of seven in four days and, even though it stopped raining, it remained cold and windy for every game. But in those few days, I had a lot of time on the sidelines to think about soccer.

Without question, my kids have learned many lessons from playing the game. They’ve learned the importance of teamwork and that a team can accomplish more than any one individual. They’ve learned to challenge themselves and to cope with falling short of their own expectations. They’ve learned to deal with personalities different than their own and they’ve learned to shake hands with their opponents — win or lose.

But I have learned a lot too.

I’ve learned to slow down and be present. I’ve been there for their triumphs — the acrobatic saves, the perfectly set up assists and goals, the defensive stands. But I’ve also been there for their disappointment at missed opportunities and mistakes. The good and the bad have given me a glimpse of the people they may someday be.

I’ve learned to appreciate the strength and athleticism of their bodies, to see their strength. As someone who was never sporty, I have been truly awed by what they are capable of doing.

I’ve learned that you can find good company in the other parents on the sidelines. No matter the differences or how little we know of each other’s lives, we have the field and the game and those moments that tie us together.

I’ve realized that my kids aren’t overscheduled but we are. Two teams, two different practice and game schedules, two uniforms to keep clean and keep track of and, when my partner travels for work, it’s on me. “Where are your shin guards?!” and “Do you have a water bottle?” and “Do you have both jerseys?” and “Don’t bang the dirt off your cleats on the stoop!” are part of my daily life. So, I’ve learned to forgive myself for occasionally praying for thunder and lightning and enough rain to keep us home.

But the most important lesson I’ve learned might be that you should never wear shorts to an evening game in Minnesota before June. The rest of the lessons may fade in time but that one is going to stick forever. 

PHOTO CREDIT: VIKKI REICH

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