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Column: Now my toddlers are kids — and here come the team sports

BY CHONA SANTANDER O’GALVIN

VIRGINIA BEACH — First time soccer mom here – and this gig is no joke. Both my kids have grown out of the adorably tumultuous toddler stage, and now they are full-blown K-I-D-S. 

Kids with unabashed six-year-old sarcasm and eight-year-old opinions. Both are expressed at volume 10 or above at any given moment of the day. My eyes glaze over when they talk about Minecraft or when they read aloud their own fan fiction based on the YouTube kids show Battle for Dream Island

I’m still trying to figure the latter show out, but cartoon contestants do battle, with winners getting cake and the defeated going to something called the Tiny Loser Chamber. High stakes.

So just when I was getting used to both kids getting past half-day kindergarten, my husband and I decided we should probably get them involved with some extracurricular activities. 

I had various conversations with other parents whose kids play basketball, go to martial arts or take ballet lessons. They would ask, “So what are your kids into?” In reply, I’d keep it real: “Uh, they go to school.” Isn’t dealing with homework hard enough?

We’ve done swimming lessons and tried tae kwon do, and there were days the kids would play outside with the neighborhood kids until the streetlights came on. But team sports? That is new territory for me. 

I tried sports when I was in sixth grade. However, I suffered an asthma attack during my first softball practice and then failed to make the junior varsity cheerleading squad. Team sports were just not in the cards for me. 

But I know the importance of teaching children to lead healthy and active lives, and I dove in headfirst after they both expressed an interest in soccer.

It can be a crapshoot when you sign up for recreational leagues. When will they have practice? Where will it be? What time are their games? You just have to fly by the seat of your pants. I got an email on Monday that my son’s first practice would be that Thursday. 

Then I got an email on Tuesday that my daughter’s practice is on Wednesday. And, by the way, I’ve got to leave work a little early so I can get them to practice on time. After the first practice, I learned that I may need to leave even earlier. Who knew it took a solid 15 minutes to get the tightest socks in the world over a pair of shin guards? 

I hustle onto the practice field like the Hot Mess Mom that I am with my work clothes, big purse and camping chair in tow. I may seem to be the only parent not wearing flip-flops, but at least I’m not the only one who’s perplexed about the game schedule. 

Both my children are playing games the same exact day and time at different locations across town. I learned that another family had three kids in three different levels, playing on three different fields. I was dumbfounded. 

Friends whose children had been already involved with sports since they could walk shared their war stories with me that put mine to shame. 

This one really got me though: oldest child plays on two soccer teams, a basketball team, swim team and ski club. Second kid plays on a soccer team, basketball team and a swim team. Third one plays guitar, joined the robotics club, plays flag football and plays basketball. 

I asked her, “When do you guys sleep?”

Seriously, how do other moms and dads do this? Long days, late dinners, and the constant go, go, go. I’m a few weeks into this now, and it is definitely wearisome. 

You can’t even calculate the admiration I have for my kids’ coaches who seem to be running the same race as me straight after work with their own kids in tow, and then they’re out there working up a sweat chasing after everyone else’s kids.

What all brings it into perspective is how much my kids love playing soccer and their commitment to it at ages six and eight. They’re having fun, being active, making friends and learning about teamwork. 

And come game day, I’ve turned into the typical obnoxious sideline cheerleading soccer mom beaming with pride over my kids and their teammates.


Santander O’Galvin is a graduate of Virginia Wesleyan College in media communcations and works as the creative brand manager at Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation. She lives in Virginia Beach with her husband and two children, Cooper and Zoe. 


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