Soccer Mom vs. Theater Mom

Yesterday, chilly, I was on the sidelines for CoCo’s 8 am soccer game. I was rewarded for this parental duty by seeing her score two goals. WTG! FTW!

I got thinking — being a spectator at a soccer game is not as much fun as being an audience member at a school play, as I was last weekend.

It’s better to be a theater mom (than a soccer mom):

1. The hours are more reasonable. (Theater would never start at 8 am.)

2. The seats are more comfortable. (There are no seats on the soccer sidelines.)

3. The show is indoors. (No need to wear mittens!)

4. The cast party has better food. (Last weekend, after the play, we had finger foods and oodles of fancy cupcakes. After the soccer game, we shared a box of Entenmann’s.)

5. The players are a bit more dramatic and entertaining. (There is drama and comedy — before, during and after the show. But before the soccer game, we hunted for the uniform; during the game, we cheered and tried to stay warm; after the game, we tried to stay warm.)

After the play, we lingered, carrying flowers for the performer, waiting for her to make her entrance. Of course, theater mothers have bad reps as stage mothers, controlling divas, whereas soccer moms are wooed by politicians, trawling for votes.

Writing about this — about being a supportive spectator at a play or game — reminds me of how I had to shift my attitude about my own importance once I had a baby. Suddenly, no one was that interested in me unless I brought along the baby. If I showed up empty-handed, people would ask, “Where’s the baby?”

I was no longer the star of my own show, I was a bit player with a walk-on part. Or maybe I was the dresser, making the star look good, staying backstage. At least now, with my kids as teens, preteens and tweens, I’ve moved from “back of house” to the “front of house.”

On the sporting event’s sidelines or in the audience, I want my kids to do well, look good and, God, I hate to admit this, but I also want them to, ever so occasionally, share the spotlight (with me).

3 Simple Rules

When I used to do stand up, I would tell myself 3 things right before I went on stage:

1. Be yourself

2. Have fun

3. It’s important

And I am trying to tell myself these same 3 rules at the start of every day.

I did not sleep well last night. One of the darlings came into bed with me at around 2. She’s nearly as big as an adult so she woke me. We have no air conditioning. It was  hot. I tossed and turned. Then I  moved to my daughter’s now-empty bed. I’d heard an antidote to insomnia is changing rooms.

As I walked in the hall, I heard the television was still on. My husband stays up way too late into the night, sometimes until 3 or 4. Then of course he falls asleep in the early evening hours when you’re talking to him (blame the Parkinson’s). Hearing the television just made me feel all sad and jumbled — my life, my restless night, my work. And I couldn’t wait until morning so I could dump all my thoughts, worries, dreams, into my journal.

1. Be yourself. Because there is a unique point of view based on a unique life’s journey. And for whatever reason, this is my journey. This is mine.

2. Have fun. Because I seriously believe that we are put on this earth to give and experience joy. The goal in life is to be happy, joyous, and free.

3. It’s important. Because I can easily dismiss my point of view, or expect that I am less than. But what I have to say is important.

I did fall asleep in my daughter’s bed and woke to write all this in my journal.

The Cloister Gardens

Note to self: it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.

To get to the medieval monastery, the girls and I walked through the Heather Garden in Fort Tryon Park. I bumped into my friend Dorothy in her floppy hat watering the flowers. She’s a gardener who used to be an editor. We chatted about coworkers. We chatted about Bette Midler, who was going to be honored by the park.

Then we chatted about the Art Students League. We both took watercolor classes there. But there are no watercolors as beautiful as flowers in a garden. If I painted them, they’d look too blue, too fake, too beautiful.

I asked Dorothy, “Where is the heather?” She was vague, “Over there.”

But she pointed out the phenomenal bright red poppies. “As big as a baby’s head!” I said. We marveled at the flowers and walked on.

We tried to lunch at the Leaf Cafe but there was a wedding reception in progress.

“I’m never getting married,” K. said. “Because I could ruin some kids’ lunch.” So we walked to the Cloisters and lunched there. It was a lovely day in the park.

It felt like summer had just descended us as we walked through the Heather Garden to the Cloisters.

Just that  morning I had been reading a study from a Twitter Friend, @uukady  that said, “Cultural activities are good for your health, Norwegian study finds.”

“In fact, being involved in either receptive cultural activities (such as attending a theatre performance or viewing an art show) or creative culture activities (where participants themselves are active in the creative process) was found to be related not only to good health, but to satisfaction with life, and low levels of anxiety and depression,” the Norwegian study noted.

Visiting a museum or garden feels good. But the visit is also good for you.

Especially the journey through the garden.


Pile on People and Activities

My number one rule is pile on people. I like to pile on activities as well as people. It is my way of coping. I like to say yes to every invitation and expand on every good idea offered — lessons I learned from performing improv.

Calder's Red Mobile, creative commons

Families are like fine art mobiles — when one member swings one way, the others move another — compensating, balancing, attempting to maintain equilibrium. With Chris’s increased slowness, I take on more. Like the arm on a mobile, I swing faster. I fly one way, while other pieces bounced along. Life swings every one. With Chris away with siblings in the Adirondacks this weekend, I did more. And I liked it.

When he’s gone, I depend more on friends.

Here was my Sunday. I got up early.

  • journaled
  • blogged
  • cabbed to pick up Charlotte from a sleep over
  • brunched at friends’ — lovely — bagels, lox, whitefish
  • dropped Hayden at church
  • napped for 20 minutes
  • got the car
  • picked up H. from church
  • dropped one child off at Randall’s Island, Icahn Stadium
  • drove to Cold Spring to get Kate from her sleep over
  • walked around with friends and K. in Cold Spring
  • watched the people fishing
  • chatted, picnicked by the harbor with friends
  • ate yogurt at a yummy yogurt place
  • picked up K.’s things from Garrison
  • drove K. and myself back to Randall’s Island
  • cheered H. and his team at track and field events
  • drove friends and kids back to city
  • parked the car at a lot
  • made dinner — chicken, rice, broccoli, strawberries
  • helped H. pack for 5-day bike trip
  • cleaned
  • sent myself and the kids to bed at 10:30

In a family, there are tons of ways to cope when a spouse is out of town, sick, or just unable to deliver the goods. People tell me, “You do too much.” Yet I would rather pile on people, activities, work, exercise, kindness than pile on resentment, solitude, inertia.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in how to balance your life based on the image of  a Calder-type mobile. Balance is not part of my vocabulary.

Enthusiasm, passion, friendship, too many activities? That’s the way! Pile it on.