There are certain things you expect to see at a kids’ soccer game. Gatorade bottles and orange slices. Coaches’ clipboards and cans of spray sunscreen. Here’s what you don’t expect to see: A 9mm handgun.
Michigan dad James Sherrill was arrested recently after pulling a pistol on another player’s dad at a high-tension soccer match between — get this — 6- and 7-year-olds.
We’d like to gasp in horror. We’d like to grimace in shock. But anyone who’s ever schlepped a folding chair to a field knows adult tempers percolate vigorously at kids’ sporting events. All too often they boil over.
“Coaching seven years of Little League has left me believing that parents at all games should be muzzled,” says a dad I know. “I had a guy threaten to not only kick my ass but have his son kick my son’s ass. Over playing time! It was a sad sight to behold.”
He once saw a father spit on an umpire. “Parent ejected, kid embarrassed,” he says.
Another friend once saw a shoving-turned-punching match between two dads at a soccer game. “One of the wives joined in and took a swing,” he says. “The kids came running off the field, then the guys’ kids went to blows. A lovely lesson to teach your 10 year-old.”
I always thought kids hated to practice. It’s an easy assumption to make if you’ve ever plunked down payments for piano lessons, then had to beg, badger, and bribe your kids to crack the “Teaching Little Fingers” songbook just once a damn week.
I’ve recently realized, though, there are some things kids love to practice. In fact, they spend much of their childhoods willingly rehearsing for life as a grown-up. They practice parenting by caring for baby dolls. They practice working by donning plastic stethoscopes and lugging toy briefcases around the house.
And when they hit sixth grade, it turns out, they practice dating. My son has informed me that suddenly, and on an almost daily basis, girls are “asking him out.”
I try not to snicker, but the semantics alone amuse. Out … where? It’s a funny proposition for a child whose notion of “going out” still means hopping on his bike and cruising the cul-de-sac to spy on neighborhood cats.
“Where, um, do they want you to go?” I inquired the first time he told me.
“I don’t know,” he replied dubiously. “So I said, ‘No, thanks.'”
He has since informed me that “going out” simply means you like someone. “Not regular ‘like,’ but sixth-grade ‘like,'” he explained. “It means, ‘I’m attracted to you.'”
Couplehood is laid out in chapters. One chapter is rife with romance as your peers get hitched. The next is replete with pride as your peers have babies.
The next — the one I’m in now — is saturated with shock, anxiety, and discouragement as your peers bicker, cheat, and surrender their once-happy marriages to the life-hacking bandsaw that is divorce.
It’s ugly. Though my marriage feels sturdy, it’s hard not to wince and take cover, whimpering, under the storm of blame lobbing, heart wringing, and estate dividing that so many friends are weathering.
With national divorce rates around 50 percent, are half of us doomed to betray or grow apart from the partners we promised to have and hold? Are we damned to disillusionment for failing to cherish ’til death do us part?
Our grandparents managed to stay married, either through a stronger commitment to wedlock or a greater tolerance for misery. But if splits are inevitable in today’s live-for-the-moment culture, then can’t they be — shouldn’t they be — less painful?
What if, when our spouses’ faults begin outshining their favors and that irresistible yen for newness comes a-knockin’, we could gracefully excuse ourselves from the union with no hard feelings? What if marriage were a temporary construct? What if it simply expired, like milk?