Yes, my life sometimes resembles an episode of Modern Family, like the one where Mitchell was banished from the big game because he’s bad luck. Except he’s a character who was banished from a fake football game, whereas I was banished from a real soccer game. By my own kid. So here’s the big question: how’s this particular banishment story going to end?
For those who don’t know, Modern Family is a wildly popular ABC show that follows three related families on their parenting/relationship adventures. My kids love it. It’s our favorite thing to watch during our weekly laundry folding parties. One recent episode really resonated–perhaps a bit too much. It’s the big game, and football coach Cam indulges every superstition to keep his team on a winning streak. His spouse Mitchell, not a football fan, decides to come to the game to cheer on Cam and the team. And that’s when Cam decides they’re losing the game because of Mitchell. His presence is a jinx. Mitchell leaves and the team starts winning again.
So I make a joke that I’m like Mitchell, that my daughter’s soccer team loses all the games I attend. It dawns on my daughter that this is true, and that they win when my husband takes her to games. And that is how one suburban mom is banned from soccer. Because of a jinx and a sitcom.
Admittedly, many parents’ first reaction to such news would be a resounding “yes!” Games do take up a lot of time. There’s the drive, at least an hour round trip (because why would the league assign us a field close by?), the warm-up, the game, the after-game talk, the meander back to the car (miles away, it seems) and the next thing you know, two and a half hours are gone. So at first I’m thinking wow, more free time.
Except there’s a lot you’d miss with eternal banishment.
I’d miss the other parents. Some of us have been together for 8 years. I like hanging out with them. We have schlepped and shivered and schvitzed on sidelines all over the county. We groan and celebrate together. We’ve got a history.
I’d miss seeing our coaches, two dads who work hard by day and then again nights and weekends, giving their time and energy to not just their own daughters but sixteen other teen girls.
And then the thing I’d miss most, the thing that has to do with watching your kid play. Watching her run and kick and huddle with her teammates. Seeing the glimmer of a six-year-old in the toss of her hair, except she’s 5′ 8″ now and you know there’s only so much more of this. This has been her life–and yours–for years: the missed ball, the triumphant goal, the broken toe, the bruises and the endless search for fashionable cleats. How does a parent say yes to missing that?
So I put up with my banishment for a bit, presuming the the girls would lose a game. They didn’t. And now, there’s just one game left. A seeded game against a good friend’s team. There’s a lot on the line. This jinx thing had to end.
So I do what any clever parent would do.
We watch that Modern Family episode again. Cam feels badly about Mitchell’s banishment, chases him down and finds him “on the fence.” Literally, Mitchell was trying to hop the fence home and he gets stuck. Cam helps him down and there is talk of bad energy and Mitchell liking football after all and the men embrace and all is forgiven. So I ask my daughter, now that you’ve seen this, what do we do?
And she says, in the sweet yet no-nonsense way of hers: “You still can’t come, you’re a jinx.”
It turns out she is not quite as generous as Cam.
So I tell her I’m the mom and I’m coming. Because not wanting me there leads to all kinds of bad energy and will make her the jinx. (ha, see what I did?) And she sighs, because she is a teen, but she and I both know that deep down (and I mean way deep, like the bottom depths of the ocean floor where only neon skeleton fish live) she wants me there, on that field.
It’s all for the best. Because we can all see it, right? In two years time, in the midst of some hugely important, righteous argument, she’d pull it out, saving it for just the right moment: “Remember when you refused to come to my games? And you went to all of His?” (See: competitive brother-sister relationship that truly must end some day.)
No, we are not allowing that ending. I’m too good a strategist for that one. And also 1) it turns out I did go to one winning game, the one in the cornfields, halfway to Pennsylvania. We won 2-0 and Julia M’s team won their game before hand with only 10 players. I remember details! I’m not a jinx! And 2) if things get really bad, “on the fence” can translate to “in the minivan.” Just close enough so I can see.
The one sure thing: I’m showing up and supporting my kid and her team. Because that’s what families do, the sitcom ones and those of us who imitate them.
I think the other Modern Family would approve.