Confessions of a recovering soccer mom

By Jane Flanagan

It’s time to come clean. I am in the soccer/Little League mom recovery program.

Last year my behavior became so unstable, I knew I couldn’t continue. I needed help.

I haven’t worked out all 12 steps yet, but this is what I’ve come up with so far:

Step 1: Have husband take Rusty, 7, over to the soccer fields alone.

Stay home chilling, maybe doing a little yoga/meditating. “Ohmm.” Get a cup of tea and stroll out there, hanging back to talk to other moms about homework, math, anything but what’s going on the field. Occasionally glance over to see what’s happening and let myself watch my kid for three minutes. Later on I will be able to look for longer. But I am new to the program. One day at a time.

Step 2: Volunteer only for non-coaching roles.

I absolutely cannot run a practice, or stand on the sidelines offering pointers. Last spring things got so bad, I actually appointed myself practice coach. Few people are less suited for this role. How did I get the kids’ attention? Yelling. “Come on now, listen up!” I’d scream, over and over. It’s the surest way not to get any child’s attention. Factor in how much I know about baseball and it’s quite something. I kept asking the kids where the shortstop was supposed to stand. I still don’t know.

Step 3: Do not talk to my son before or during the game.

Last spring I was at the height of my binging. Game start time was 8:15 a.m. A reasonable person might think that was early enough for a Saturday morning, but not me. I was angry that we couldn’t get onto the fields sooner. The baseball diamonds are visible from my apartment window, so starting at 7:40 a.m. each Saturday morning I would stand in the kitchen staring out at the locked fence.

“I don’t know why they can’t open those fields sooner!” I’d shout to my husband whose head was invariably buried in a closet, preoccupied with the secondary task of looking for Rusty’s baseball mitt.

Once out on the field I would initially stand aside observing my husband’s low-key, warm-up approach and comments such as “Nice catch, son.” “This will never do,” I thought. I convinced my husband to help the other kids and I took control over Rusty’s warm-up. At the sight of me, my son’s face fell. He even valiantly attempted to continue his “catch and pretend slide” maneuver. Nice try. “No sliding, Rusty! Focus, Focus!” I’d yell.

Later, game in progress, I was shocked to see that Rusty actually thought he could clown around with a buddy during a lull in the action. He was out in the field, I was at home plate. But that was no obstacle. I just yelled louder. “Focus, Rusty, focus!”

Step. 4 No independent practice times permitted.

During the spring, the fields are always booked. But this didn’t stop me from getting in extra practices. I would march Rusty out to the back fence while games were in progress. One day there were corporate teams playing. I soon discovered how easily grown men whack the ball. We got in a full five minutes before the first slugger whizzed one over our heads. I continued pitching. Another one flew by without incident but the third nearly smacked me on the back of the head. If it were just me I would have kept going. But, fortunately, the sight of my son brought me to my senses. “If Rusty gets conked on the head he won’t be in top form for Saturday’s game!” I thought. I packed him up and headed for a secure location.

But all that’s behind me now. I am in recovery. What scared me straight?

Little League season eventually ended and I took Rusty up to the country for the summer. We began going to the lake and it was there that my tremors began. It was a cold turkey situation. At first, I kept jumping up from the beach chair, running to the water, sure I had some key role to play. But Rusty would simply turn to me from his boogey board, splashing and laughing. The next time I sprinted down, he showed me his collection of clams, the third time, his sandcastle. It was just him and nature and even I couldn’t find anything to improve upon.

In a daze I walked back to my chair and sat down. That’s when the tremors began. I knew I needed help.

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