Monday, October 12, 2009

The Soccer Squabble That Snowballed

We parents were all watching our boys at a normal evening practice, working diligently with their coach, whom we all respect very much. Not only is he wise in the ways of soccer, but he is a gentle soul, always understanding to the whims of 6-year-old boys and very patient to the needs of these tender lads.

Coach’s pleasant demeanor and no-nonsense attitude may explain why, when a little boy (not from the team) asked them if he could join their practice, he said “No problem!” We were, after all, at a public park, and the little boy probably found it hard to resist the fun these boys were having. I don’t blame the boy for asking – I blame his dad. A burly, intimidating man, standing at about six-feet, 5 inches tall stood nearby and cheered on the new addition to our team with gusto. He must have encouraged the boy to ask to participate, because he reveled in watching his son play with our team.

This did not sit well with me. I am all for inclusion, and for equal participation. But Hubby and I were paying for this soccer team, signing Volcano up early to make sure he got on the same team as last year, with this very gifted coach, on a team with all his friends. We paid for the jersey he was wearing, and we were paying for this coach’s time. Plus, as team mom, I organized the parents in bringing snacks every week and donating to the coach’s gift. Where was this guy’s money? Was he going to bring Gatorade for the whole team, like every parent signed up to do, week after week?

Plus, Monkey and some of the other sisters of the players had gathered nearby, and they were playing near this strange man. It gave me the creeps. Not to be paranoid, but this older guy hanging around my daughter made me think of “stranger danger” and pedophiles. It just wasn’t right, letting this strange guy lurk around our children.

I muttered to Carla, the mom next to me, “Who is this guy?”

“I don’t know,” she said, with the same concern. Not only was her son on the team with Volcano, but she also had a daughter playing with Monkey and the other girls. “Why is his kid in our practice?”

“He just kind of showed up,” a nearby dad, mused, obviously as annoyed as we were. Kevin is tall and thin, and very soft-spoken. “Coach said he could join our group, but I don’t think it’s right. We’re paying for this team, he’s not. He can’t just show up and play with our kids.”

As I nodded, Kevin’s wife Laura shook her head and rolled her eyes. “I know him, he’s fine,” she reported, with an annoyed face, like we were making a big deal out of nothing. “I teach his daughter.” Laura was a kindergarten teacher at the nearby elementary school.

“If you say so, Laura…” I began, but I was still not sure. I didn’t know Laura that well. And how much did she know about this guy, even if she did teach his kid?

Soon after, the burly stranger called to his son. Suddenly, Kevin stood up and started walking over to the man. “Where is he going?” I asked Laura, intrigued. She didn’t answer me, not even turning her head.

As we all watched from a distance, I asked again, “What’s he saying?” You could tell Kevin was talking to the stranger, gesturing with his hands, shaking his head, but always with a polite smile on his face. He spoke so softly, that we could barely hear his words. I did hear him say, “It’s making some of the parents uncomfortable.”

The stranger looked furious. He spoke loudly, gesturing to Coach, “Well, he said it was okay, so I didn’t think it was a big deal!” When Kevin spoke a little more, you could hear the stranger shout, “Gimme a break!” as he shook his head in disgust.

“What’s he saying?” I asked again in awe, but everyone was quiet, in awe, desperate to hear what Kevin was telling this man twice his size. Although the two men stood at the same height, the stranger stood at about 250 pounds to Kevin’s 180.

The large man soon stomped away furiously, shouting, “Whatever, man! Whatever!” He even made a point to give one last dirty look as he stormed off. Kevin strolled back over to us casually, his hands in his pockets, and sat back down next to Laura.

“Thank you so much,” I told Kevin appreciatively. “We all felt uneasy about that guy lurking around here.”

Carla nodded. “That was awesome! Thank you!”

Laura whipped her head around. “Now I have to see the guy at school tomorrow!” she spat furiously. “That was totally unnecessary!”

I was stunned, and I saw a look of surprise on Carla’s face. It surprised me that Laura would berate her husband in front of all of us. Why was she upset that Kevin had helped all of us parents with our children’s safety?

“I told him politely,” Kevin assured her, in his gentle voice.

“I don’t care!” Laura whispered harshly, loud enough for all of us still to hear. “I have to work with the guy, not you!”

Awkward! I didn’t mean to start a family feud, but I was truly grateful to Kevin for standing up to this guy. But now I felt that, if I had thanked him further, I would’ve been taking sides in a marriage squabble. The couple continued to quarrel for a few more minutes, and then they sat in seething silence. Wow. I was still amazed at what had transpired. Turning to Carla, away from the scene, I muttered, “Well, I appreciated it, nonetheless.” She just shrugged in agreement, with her eyes still wide in surprise.

I just think that Laura should’ve talked about it later with Kevin, away from all of us. And I certainly don’t think she should’ve scolded Carla and me for showing our appreciation.

And there shouldn’t be so much drama at a soccer practice, should there?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mommy Quote of the Week

"Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day”
-- Simone de Beauvoir