All I used to fret about in my previous life was showing up on time.
Four kids. Two sports per child. Three after-school hours. You do the math. I spent so much time in my car that I had secret dreams of fitting it out with a wardrobe, and a cupboard, and a desk. Just to keep all the stuff I lugged around with me organized.
I was a full-time American soccer mom.
It was a tight schedule, and things occasionally went wrong. Like the times I got the schedules mixed up and rolled up to a deserted field. Or when I’d forget to pick up a friend’s child as part of my carpool arrangements. Or the early days, when Zax had just started playing soccer and I got the evil look from the coach when it was break time and my child was the only one without a water bottle. Which I felt entitled to have forgotten, what with having to leave the house with four kids under the age of five, three teddy bears, four bags, and a double stroller. It was practically a miracle I showed up at all.
But once I made it to the right place at the right time, I would exhale, settle down, and enjoy the brief pause before the next scheduled pickup.
That has now changed. These days, my fretting starts precisely when I arrive at the field, where I join the ranks of my sisters-in-arms, the rugby moms.
We all worry about our sons. We stand there at the edge of the field, too nervous to sit. Eyes trained on the pitch. Furrowed brows. An occasional feeble joke to break the silence. Checking our phones to make sure we have the nearest hospital on speed dial. Jumping forward, yet restraining ourselves, when we see someone go down. Secretly praying our child will have the good sense to get out of the way when a boy twice his size is barreling toward him at full speed. Insanely proud when he doesn’t.
We all hate it. Yet we wouldn’t miss a game for the world. We’re happy that they’re so happy.
Ironically, we came to rugby via an injury on the soccer field. Remember when Jabulani broke his arm about a year ago when a boy stepped on it just as he was trying to make a save? Well, he hasn’t touched a soccer ball since then. Instead we’ve already had a sprained thumb and a mild concussion since he decided he would join the ranks of Dainfern College’s U-14 rugby team. Not counting the bazillion bruises covering his body like a quilt. Let me just say he is not built like a rugby player. Neither does he seem to distinguish himself by any kind of speed. But whatever he lacks in physical requirements, he more than makes up in spirit, whether it’s cheering on his own team or the older boys, all the way up to the revered 1st Team. He usually has no voice left by mid-Saturday.
If it weren’t for all my worrying, I would actually enjoy watching him play. Rugby, against all my snooty preconceptions, is a brilliant game, far surpassing American football in speed and finesse. All South African sports will grow on you (I was even spotted playing netball last week!) but of all of them, rugby is the easiest one to embrace. Especially if the Springboks trounce England like they did this weekend.
Nothing spells “South Africa” more than a chilly Saturday morning at your school’s Derby Day, waiting for the sun to start warming you, surrounded by school spirit, enjoying the sportsmanship, win or lose, and watching your son turn into a man in front of your eyes.
And sending a silent prayer heavenly each time another match is over.