It’s pouring rain and Mark has a soccer game in Kingston today.
It’s not one of those warm rains either. It’s bitter cold and coming down really heavy. In sheets. The kind where you look out the window and you can literally SEE walls of rain.
Every part of me has been hoping and begging and praying for their game to be cancelled today. Not just for their sakes but selfishly for mine as well. Kingston is almost an hour drive away. Although I’m always happy to play chauffeur for the many teams my kiddos have been a part of over the years, driving on the 101highway westward in a rainstorm, to then stand around for an hour and a half is not appealing to my sense of selfless motherhood today.
So I wait. I wait with baited breath beside my cell phone for the call, or text, or email, for it to be cancelled. But it doesn’t come no matter how much I will it to.
So I somewhat begrudgingly grab my raincoat, umbrella and chair and head out of my cozy warm dry house into the freezing wet cold to his Middle School.
I arrive early as always and wait for Coach Jeff to tell me how many boys I am taking and who they will be. It always varies, and can be boys I’ve known since they were five or boys I’ve never really met before. They can be boys Marks age, or boys three years older than he is.
Today I get a combination of all the above, and we trudge to the 4-Runner to throw backpacks and soccer bags in the back and off we go to hit the road.
As I speed up the on ramp I balance the part of my head telling me to be careful of hydroplaning on the infamous stretch of two lane highway … very aware of the precious cargo I am carrying … and trying to casually listen to the conversation between these boys as they talk about the upcoming game. This may be my favourite part of being a chauffeur – after about 5 minutes in the vehicle they all seem to forget I’m a Mom and somehow I magically get to be the fly on the wall – an outsider “listening in” to a world I don’t always get to be a part of anymore due to my “uncool 42 year old status” that being a parent behooves me.
An hour later we arrive safely in the parking lot and I whisper a little thank you as these boys pile out of the vehicle – grabbing their water bottles – not realizing how bitterly cold it really is and how fast the rain is teaming down. Or maybe they do realize and they don’t care. I think that’s it really. Because off they run clearly with a mission, as I stare after them grabbing my umbrella. As I lean into the truck to get my chair I feel a wet river of water running down my back and I curse a little (ok a lot) under my breath – feeling my selflessness drip away with each frigid drop that makes its way onto my bare neck.
I lock the truck and begin walking to the field. I make it about 10 paces when I turn around and reopen the trunk, grabbing my stocking hat and mittens – realizing I will, without a doubt, be needing them this afternoon and thankful I stuck them in at the last minute.
Feeling fashionless in my rain boots and hat, I quickly find my friends … other Moms doing the exact same thing for their kiddos … taking time off work to play chauffeur and cheerleader. All of us huddled together to stay warm and dry, trying not to let resentment bubble to the surface as our umbrellas turn inside out from the wind, our socks get soggy and our fingers become numb.
We watch these boys … our boys … as they run and play their hardest … giving it everything they’ve got. We yell and cheer from the sidelines rooting them on – sometimes unsure of our place between overbearing mom and biggest fan. We grab extra ponchos and mittens and garbage bags from our cars – getting other sons to take them over to the bench – each of us resisting the real urge we all have – which is to go wrap them up in a waterproof bubble, feed them chicken soup, and admit to each other that sometimes it sucks being the mom of a preteen or teenager … having to stand on the sidelines watching them get hypothermia and letting them do their thing.
But there we are – rooting and cheering and watching from the sidelines as these boys …our boys … go into … yup …overtime.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
It’s sometimes hard not to resent this stage in the kids’ lives. There is a lot of constant running here and there with sometimes little reward. I am very much on the periphery of their lives in many ways. When they were younger all the work I did was more tangible … and to be honest sometimes more enjoyable. Making crafts with them and organizing playdates. Planning birthday parties and baking cupcakes. I was really good at that. I loved everything about that. But this is a different kind of beast. And the thing is – despite the last 913 words, I usually do relish it – this new world. I try very much relish every stage they are in – I recognize how lucky I am to have them here on this earth with me – healthy and happy. But on these cold, rainy, cold, overtime, cold, wet, (did I mention cold?) soccer days, sometimes it’s harder to do the “relishing”.
But then …
The winning goal is scored, and the game is over.
And these boys ….
Our boys …
Make their way across the field. Each of them looking like drowned rats. Simultaneously smiling and shivering because they are so thrilled to have won a hard fought game and so physically exhausted and cold they think they may never get warm.
And then four of these boys – these sopping wet, stinky boys climb into my 4-Runner. In they all go. Two of whom I don’t know extremely well – just from the last month – one whom I know like my own – and the other who ofcourse I’ve known his whole life.
There is three years between the youngest and the oldest. That’s a lot of years between boys that young. But I sit behind the wheel and hear them talk. They are so kind and good and supportive of each other. They were on the drive here and they are on the drive back. They are encouraging and thoughtful and funny. They talk about what went right and what went wrong, they talk about how they can improve their game and who they thought did really well and why. They are far from perfect, and their humour leaves much to be desired. But at no point is there talk of putting anyone down. At no point do they treat each other as less-than or more-than because of age or skill or social status. I hold no pretense that they always behave like this – that they don’t make mistakes or can be rude or petty at times. But right now … and from what I have witnessed both on the field and off … these boys … our boys … make me so proud.
And then to top it off – without prompting or reason – out of nowhere – these boys thank me for driving. And not only does the oldest thank me but he does it in a way that recognizes I could be doing anything else with my time and that I’ve chosen to do this. And then another chimes in, and another, and another. In the most generous and sincere way. How is it that one little thank you (make that four little thank yous) completely unrequested or prompted – can make all the difference? Life is funny that way isn’t it?
I spend the rest of the drive home listening and reflecting, as they drink their hot chocolate, text, laugh and talk. This age – these boys this age – this middle school age of 11-14 – can be so challenging. So many physical and emotional changes. They are all trying to find their place in the world of school and sports and social realms. Trying to find their way and sometimes not making the best decisions – which is of course part of growing up.
But I sat there behind the wheel driving – these boys. These boys who are far from perfect but who in my experience are making decisions grounded in respect and character and gratitude. And I think to myself – these boys are the boys I want to continue to raise in the world. These boys make it easy to stand in the rain for. These boys are on their way to becoming great men in the world.
I think back to four hours ago as I was letting my resentment and selfishness come to the surface. That resentment seems pretty far away now. Because I realize how lucky I am to be a part of these boys lives. However big (as a Mom) or however small (as a chauffeur)
And for that I am so thankful.