I have never had many female friends. A handful at a time is about all I have ever been able to manage and I am not someone who carries friendships over from situation to situation or age to age. My high school and college friends don’t outnumber my fingers combined, and my workplace friendship have rarely bled over into my real life. The number of friend friends I have made as an adult is smaller than the number of friends I’ve carried from my school days when making friends was easier just given the sheer number of opportunities.
Oh, there are many women I am friendly with. I am easy peasy in casual situations. That wasn’t always so. I had to work hard to learn the small talk game and seem completely at ease among people I don’t know. My introvert self still quakes and cringes in new situations or when numbers rise. It is easily overwhelmed, but I have learned to force inner calm or to ignore the urge to cower. And it only took me not quite 50 years to do it.
I will always be more comfortable in the virtual realm. Thank the gods for social media outlets, really. The confidence I have acquired sallying forth into the boundless and ethereal place known as the Internet bulked up my introvert, who took her initial lessons in cultivating a bold exterior over the many years spent as a public school teacher.
But, for all that, I am still hopeless when it comes to making friends with members of my gender.
It’s not that I don’t try. My attempts are sincere. The results go either way but when they go south, it’s usually with spectacular effect.
The danger in trying to establish bonds with the mothers of the players on Dee’s soccer team is that our common focal point is a competitive sport. My upbringing and my latent alpha girl tendencies prevent me from viewing sports as “fun” unless winning is involved. Partly it is a Catholic school girl thing and partly it’s my Dad’s fault.
As a young man, my father played farm league ball. He was a catcher and one of the first games he schooled DNOS and I in was catch and then Pickle In The Middle before progressing to batting grounds and pop flys to us with the occasional straight for your face to hone our skills. Because he worked 50 to 60 hours a week in a meat-packing plant, he didn’t have time for either of us to whine or dog it when he coached us, and he expected us to practice on our own as well. Practice made good players better. Inherent ability would only take us so far and practice would take us the rest of the way.
This is not how girls are coached, generally speaking. Not when I was growing up back in the 70’s nor when I was coaching in the 90’s nor now. Girls are babied and told that it’s all about “fun” and “trying” and “team spirit”.
Dad was more like Yoda. There is no try. And the “fun” of competition was about busting your hump at 110% for the win. Team spirit? That was a much a given as sportsmanship.
So though I acknowledge Dee’s efforts, I don’t sing sunshine up her bum when she dogs it or quits. I praise the outstanding rather than the givens and I point out those things that need work. Because she swears that soccer is the game for her and she wants to someday play on club teams – I treat her ambition with respect and provide realistic feedback or kicks in the backside – depending.
I am also not someone who thinks that rearranging my life around hers is just what parents do. I will not cart about a child who doesn’t try or work to improve. Her social life is not a big priority. In fact, the idea that children have social lives is too perplexing for me to even spend much thought on.
For all of the above, I am not the mom in the locker room spooning out sugar and I have garnered more than a few disapproving looks as a result.
And it probably isn’t going to win me any playdates at Starbucks either.
But Coach’s Wife took my inept attempts at “chatter” personally.
“You have such a way with pointing out the obvious,” Rob said.
And the trouble with the obvious is that it’s usually a proverbial elephant which no one cares to acknowledge. In yesterday’s case, our soccer association board really, really wants our kids to be competitive at a tourney level, but not much is provided by way of making this happen. The U10 Girls get a measly 1 hour of pitch time a week to practice, and the team is too large to give the girls much playing time during their once a week game. There are no camps or clinics scheduled at all during the season, and no camps during the summer.
To top it off, the board bemoans lack of parent volunteers but doesn’t make meetings accessible with their usual slotting of them in the evenings during the work/school week and doesn’t make much use at all of even the simplest of social media to engage parents and kids.
But to be fair, it’s not just the board. A significant number of parents aren’t interested in extra practices or even the once a week practice.
In our neck of Alberta, the winter sport of choice involves ice – hockey or Ringette. Both are bloodthirsty competitions which parent and child alike take to like followers of Attila. The less aggressive gravitate towards soccer.
When we arrived at Servus Place in St. Albert for today’s game, the other coach greeted me with news that Coach’s Wife wouldn’t be attending because of yesterday’s conversation with me. She was miffed.
“But it’s okay,” I was told. “She only sits and texts anyway.”
Which she does. but that puts her into good company because I have witnessed many a parent thumbing it on the sidelines.
I was tempted to apologize for my faux pas to her husband today as he and I chatted about tomorrow’s competition in the locker room after today’s game. He’s an easy-going guy and in retrospect, his frozen smile yesterday as his wife and I conversed, makes much more sense. But I let it go. She could have fed me a heads up about her being on the board and I would have changed the subject. It was a bit underhanded to withhold that and then git snarky about it later.
On the bright side, some of the other mom’s are giving it a go to engage with me despite my awkwardness with it. Perhaps they feel a bit sorry for Dee? Whatever the case, I am working hard at curbing my blunter edges though – admittedly – this is a Herculean task.