I can pinpoint when it happened. At that moment, I was in complete denial, but transformed nonetheless. I was the career mom, the working mom, the cool mom... not the bat-sh*t crazy sports mom. I was the mom that silently and not so silently mocked THOSE moms. THOSE moms would drive their 9-year-old Beckhams to the very best club soccer practice 30 miles away. I was strictly driving local -- dropping my little ones at parks within a mile radius of my house to hang with mediocre athletes who cared more about after-game snacks than the actual sport. THOSE moms would spend their entire weekends on an uncomfortable bleacher in a different area code prepping their mini-Jetters for the major leagues. Not me. I would show up right when the game started and get the hell out of dodge the second the fat lady sung. Unless we were playing Larry King's son's team... that was fascinating and worth sticking around for.
My son was a solid athlete. Pretty good at most sports, but not great at any. He bounced from tennis, to flag football, to basketball, to baseball, and they all provided him with roughly the same level of moderate enjoyment. He liked them all, but he didn't love a single one. More than the actual sport, my goofy, fun-loving 10-year-old enjoyed the camaraderie of the teams and yeah, the snacks.
One Saturday after a little league game on our walk back to the car, my son spied a father and his son maneuvering their sticks as they tossed a lacrosse ball. My son had never seen this strange game and was captivated. We live in Santa Monica, California, so seeing a primarily East Coast game was a rarity in our parts.
The following weekend, armed with pads and a stick, my son went to his first lacrosse practice. He was hooked from day one. He couldn't get enough of this game. A few weeks later, before he went to bed one night, he said, "Mom, I think I found my passion." Lacrosse became more than a game; it was a game changer. That was the moment. The moment my son's fulfillment became more important than maintaining what I thought was a very laid-back approach to kid sports. It was the moment I became one of THOSE moms.
Soon, I, the carefree, all-about-personal-convenience mom, was driving my son to different cities around California for weekend tournaments. Not only that, but once my son progressed enough to make regional all-star teams, we were also getting on airplanes and flying to different states! Yes, I was one of THOSE moms, and I loved it. I loved it because I love my son. It didn't matter to me that the former incarnation of myself would have mocked what I had become. Because I know now that my former self didn't quite understand what drives THOSE moms to appear over-the-top at times. To look into your child's eyes and see passion and determination is a gift. It can be transformative for a child -- he knows there are no shortcuts for fulfilling dreams. And it can be as fulfilling for a parent.
More than just being skilled on the lacrosse field, my son's passion is driving him to be a good student. He knows grades are important in fueling his passion because a strong academic record is required if he wants to play lacrosse at a good school some day. Suddenly, the kid who couldn't sit still in class became focused. MY class clown became a confident leader. The boy who was happy being middle of the pack became president of the National Junior Honor Society. (Sorry, I can't help bragging I am one of THOSE moms.) He always has his eye on the prize. The prize being playing lacrosse at Duke, Yale, Penn... or some other Ivy League college. High goals, indeed. He is beyond motivated (motivation on steroids!) to do well in school, serve the community and yes, play lacrosse.
Next week, my son will be graduating from middle school. He will also be giving the commencement speech. I'm proud, as any mom would be, but I'm also grateful that my son found his passion. I know that passion is what is keeping my son on the right path. For him it happens to be lacrosse, but if it were badminton, baking, design or underwater basket-weaving that instilled passion in my child, I would be equally thrilled. And I would be one of THOSE badminton moms.
I've also come to find out that THOSE moms are pretty cool and I have forged some lovely friendships. People question my sanity in schlepping my son all around to play a sport. I don't blame them, and still wonder if we need to drive an hour to Palos Verdes for a practice. I wonder, that is, until my strong, sensitive, smart 14-year-old bounds out of the car, gives me a kiss and says, "Love you mom -- thanks for driving me." I bought a hybrid. I will keep on driving.