My toddler is obsessed with sports. From the moment he wakes up until the moment he goes to sleep he does nothing but play sports all day long. Approximately half of his vocabulary is sports-related and he cheers every time he passes the logo of our local sports teams. He runs constantly and is rarely seen without a hockey stick, baseball glove or ball in his hand. He is constantly in search of someone to play his version of sports with him. He eats meals only with the promise of more sports to follow the meal. The kid trains like an Olympian, and he’s not even two years old.
As a non-sports fan, I was baffled by this behaviour. How could he be so obsessed so early? I thought I had more time before I became a sports mom. Surely this has got to be a phase? But as time passed, the behaviour only intensified. “But we just played baseball for two hours. Don’t you want to play with your puzzle?” I would ask. My son, clearly just as baffled by my lack of passion for baseball, would shake his head and say, “No. More baseball.”
It all started shortly after he turned 18 months and my husband bought him a set of mini hockey sticks. At first they sat, untouched, in the living room. The only one interested in them was the dog, but luckily she didn’t have the opposable thumbs necessary to play with them.
Then we took him to a local minor league hockey game and everything changed. My toddler watched nearly the whole game, wide-eyed with excitement, and returned home to play with his hockey stick for nearly an hour. A sports fan was born.
I have to confess that I am out of my depth here, folks. This athleticism does not come from me. I am an un-coordinated musician. No friends, my favourite sport growing up was track, because I was never asked to catch anything, and I stopped doing that in grade 9 to join the drama club. I confess that I didn’t miss sports at all and after finding my artsy people, I never looked back. No one who has ever met me would describe me as good at, or interested in sports.
So how did I end up with such a tiny sports fanatic? I blame my husband. He and his extra-sporty genes have created the tiny sports fan who runs around our house, always carrying a ball of some sort. In fact, I blame his whole super-athletic family for the fact that my son’s first sentence was, “More baseball please.”
My husband played several sports at high levels, and seems able to easily pick up any sport he tries. He is a natural born athlete, like generations before him. His family is full of high level athletes, coaches and scouts who seem unaware that there are other things besides games and sports update shows on TV. Once during a hockey game, when I asked what the announcer meant by icing, the whole family turned to look at me in disbelief. There was a moment of silence as they tried to decide if I was joking before my soon-to-be husband finally explained it to me. Clearly, there was something strange about this artsy interloper. Luckily, he married me anyway.
So I should have been expecting this, right? Well, I suppose, in my limited understanding of genetics, I was hoping that my non-sporty genes would mellow out some of my husband’s extra-sporty genes and our kid would have a normal level of sportiness. Somehow, it seems that my genes have actually done the opposite, and intensified my son’s interest in sports.
Suddenly I can see myself in the future, driving an SUV full of sports equipment to various arenas, diamonds or fields. I can see my weekends full of tournaments and my weeknights full of practices. I can see myself playing hours and hours more sports with my kids, being pelted by wild balls in the face because I am incapable of catching them due to incompetence.
I see myself becoming a baseball mom, or a hockey mom – or both! – and I have to confess that I am scared. I am scared that I won’t be able to keep up with this intense sportiness. I am scared that I won’t understand the rules or discussions of the other sport’s parents as they effortlessly spout sports terms I can’t grasp. I am scared that eventually my son will become frustrated with me and start to play with someone better, someone who can catch instead of ducking. I am scared that my lack of interest and ability in sports will mean that we won’t connect.
But just when I think I will be the worst sport’s mom ever, I think of my parents. Growing up, I was not involved in many sports, but I had a passion of my own – music. Even though they were not musicians, and had no musical training or knowledge, they were amazing music parents. They came to every performance I ever played in and continue to attend my performances today. They drove me to competitions, practices and extra theory lessons. They paid for 10 years of piano lessons and listened patiently while I practised even the most annoying of songs and instruments at home. (Sorry about those recorder years.) They didn’t get my new world, but that didn’t seem to matter. They didn’t need to be musicians to support my musicianship. You don’t need to share your kid’s interests, you just need to love your kid. When I remember this, I am instantly reassured. I can be a sports mom after all, I tell myself.
I may not be an athlete. I may not be able to catch or throw. I may not understand all the rules or all the lingo. I may bring books to sporting events, but I can still be an amazing sports mom. I know this because when my son looks up at me after playing almost 2 hours of baseball, and says: “More baseball, please?” I respond with something I never thought I would say: “Okay, I love baseball.” My son grins up at me, and I know that I am worrying over nothing.
Except being pelted with balls. That is a very real concern. Please send ice packs and wine.