Feminism Gender Roles parenting Women

Gender, Moms and Soccer

My daughter is at soccer camp this week. It rained last night so when they played today, she got covered in mud. She walked past a group of cheerleaders and could barely conceal her derision. She told her dad, who happens to be a coach at the same camp, “I’d much rather hit people and get dirty than do a bunch of cheers.”

Nothing against cheerleaders, people. Some of my best friends are cheerleaders. (That is true; I do have some cheerleading friends.) However, the Luits are not exactly cheerleader material. We just don’t get it. It’s not our thing. And I thank God everyday, because I don’t know how to braid hair, I know next to nothing about glitter and if sports are being played, I’d rather be doing that.

When I watch my daughter play soccer, I want her to be fierce and tough. I want her to be a badass. I want her to trap, tackle, slide and generally just kick some grass. I want dirt on her uni, I want grass in her hair. I sit on my hands and mumble to myself that she get after it. If she gets tripped up or smacked into, I tell her to walk it off. I am so that mom.

When I watch my son play soccer, I am a different mother altogether. And it kills me to admit this. I want him to be kind. To play nicely. I want him to obey the rules and help a fellow player up off the turf. I want him to make friends. I don’t want excessive celebrations. I want short high fives and to continue play. If he gets knocked down, it takes the restraint of a monk to not run onto the field for my baby. It’s all I can do to keep myself from flailing toward him, arms open wide. I am so that mom.

I’m proud of them both; proud that they play a sport, proud that they are learning and engaging in the world around them. Proud of their effort. I’m a big fan of the “do it for fun” ideology. What surprises me is the different sets of eyes through which I watch them. Of course, all parents have to do that; each kid is different and the best moms and dads know this.

I’m just surprised that mine seem to fit into such incredibly gendered segments: I want a strong girl and a kind boy. Maybe it’s the reverse for some people: that whole girls are made of sugar or whatever it is. I find all my own gender ideas coming to a head when I watch my kids play sports. I know the world is a tough place for women and if she wants certain things, she’s going to have to know how to get them; I don’t want her relying on her femininity to get it. I want her to get it with her smarts. Likewise, the world is a different place for men. Never have they laudibly done so much in the home as well as at work. But this takes a balance of strength and sensitivity.

Still, to be completely free of the gender ideals, I suppose I’d want them both to play well, to be safe, and to have fun. If I were truly gender neutral, I’d be more interested in fair games and trying than in what I’ve listed. I guess men and women have come a long way, but I, at least, still have some miles to go.

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