If you have a son or daughter involved in youth sports, you already know the pressure. After registering your child for a team, spending their college savings on a uniform and equipment, and the obligatory parent t-shirt that reads, "I'm [your child's name here]'s Mom," the next thing you're asked to do is sign up for snack duty. Yes, after your child has done an incredibly healthy thing such as run around a soccer field for an hour, he or she is apparently entitled to a sugary snack and drink as a reward. When I was a kid, "snack and drink" amounted to sliced oranges and cold water dispensed out of a large cooler and with paper cups that disintegrated in your hand after the sides collapsed on themselves. Today, "snack and drink" means cupcakes, full-size bottles of Gatorade, fudge-striped cookies, Doritos, Sprite, and sometimes, ice cream. Mothers have even been known to bring cellophane bags filled with candy, much like the goody bags children receive at a birthday party.
The tone (which is to say, the expectation) for snack duty is usually set by whatever the first mother on the list brings. Unfortunately, the first mother on the list is almost always the Team Mom (or someone else more organized than me) to come up with a list in the first place. This mother is, by default, apt to bring something fantastic for the after-game snack. (Although I'd be willing to bet it won't be sliced oranges, a cooler of water, and cheap paper cups.) What this means for you, the further-down-the-list mother, is that you will be looked upon with disgust, pity, and threats of Child Protective Services if you bring raisins and bottles of water for snack duty. Trust me.
"They've just played soccer for an hour, and she brings the raisins," the other mothers (who would have brought homemade cupcakes) will think.
I'm sorry, I strive to just get my kids to the game on time (and if their shoes are tied that’s a bonus). I wouldn't even know how to transport cupcakes without smashing them, and I certainly don't know how to bring ice cream and keep it frozen. But really, why do these kids need cookies, cupcakes and ice cream just because they've played a game? What happened to tousling their hair and saying, "Good job, Son. Now go take out the trash."
At a time when society is obsessed with the health and diets of children and an outstanding amount of children suffer from diabetes and obesity, I'm surprised that no one addresses this after-game snack phenomenon. This isn’t to say that I don’t have a theory as to why we aren’t talking about it, because I always have theories. My theory is that some mothers have too much time on their hands.
Do you realize that today mothers actually have more time than ever before? Think about all the ways in which our lives have become easier: dishwashers, fast food, microwaves, disposable diapers, washing machines. Time that my grandmother spent hanging up cloth diapers is now spent out-performing other mothers with after-game snacks. I can't help but think this isn't a good thing. The out-performing each other part, at least.
We simply have too much time today. We have time to worry about every sniffle and every statistic. We even have time to read and reread books about every developmental stage. "I didn't know about all these goofy things when I was raising kids," my 87-year- old grandmother, Doris, is known to say. "I was just doing the best I could." Doris was a young mother like me in the post-WWII era. Unlike me, she had very little time to worry about after-game snacks, or even sports, and certainly she didn't have time to worry about the developmental aspects of youth sports. My uncle and mom were playing kickball in the front yard while she hung clothes out to dry in the back.
I'm tempted to say Doris's way is the better way. I'm also tempted to take a stand against after-game snacks at tee-ball this spring. Yet, come to think of it, baking cupcakes for the soccer team might be annoying, but it sure beats the heck out of cleaning dirty cloth diapers and staying home all day to make meatloaf and wax the floors. Especially if no other mothers have to see my dirty floors and comment about how clean theirs are.
Sarah Smiley is the author of SHORE DUTY, a syndicated newspaper column, and of the memoir Going Overboard: The Misadventures of a Military Wife (Penguin/NAL, 2005). Read more about Sarah at www.SarahSmiley.com