Like so many families in town, we spent this weekend sitting on a sideline cheering on one of our children.

This weekend it was soccer in Casper, but on any given weekend it could be swimming or cross-country or baseball. I never pictured myself hauling lawn chairs across acres of soccer fields to cheer for kids soccer. In fact, until recently, I viewed club travel teams as pretty unnecessary for elementary school-aged kids. (I still maintain that as parents we need to help kids keep things in perspective, set priorities and balance their schedules with plenty of time built in for plain old play with friends.)

But here we are. And I’ll let you in on a secret — I love it. Not the sports spectatorship per se — but I love watching my kids, and I love being their No. 1 fan.

On Saturday, we watched our son play his first soccer games ever. I was nervous for him — he’s the only member of the team who has never played organized soccer, but he seemed excited, so the message seemed clear: If he’s in a good space, then the mom needs to quit worrying and chill out. 

Because I apparently am a slow learner at chilling out, on Sunday I got more practice. His team had played their three games, and it seemed unlikely that they would make any finals games, so we headed home. About 5 miles north of Casper, we got word that his team had in fact made the finals and was to play in 30 minutes. We turned the car around, and I started barking out frantic orders about shin guards and cleats. 

As we walked up to the field, it was clear there had been considerable confusion about which teams were supposed to play in that final game. While the parents were clearly flustered, the kids handled it with aplomb, took the field and completed their warmups. 

Once the game began, our team’s sideline was as supportive as any, with parents encouraging kids by name as they subbed in and out and shouting their praise for good play. When a ball was misplayed, parents urged the kids to “shake it off.” When our team went up 1-0 our sideline cheered wildly — that’s what being your kid’s biggest fan means. 

Being your kid’s biggest fan means your stomach is tied in knots as your daughter plays a piano solo in front of the school and then you are beaming with pride (and exhaling deeply) when she finishes the number. It means pumping your fist when your child touches the wall in his first swim race — in first place or last place, it doesn’t matter, as long as they did the best they could.

It means recording her kindergarten concert and sharing it with family so that everyone can witness her greatness.

Being your kids’ biggest fan means believing in them, it means loving what they love, it means saying “go for it” and meaning it, it means being there when their heart is broken, and it means picking them up and reminding them to “shake it off.” 

As parents, we’re not with our kids in school to see their academic successes. Most of the time, we only get to know about those things when parent-teacher conferences roll around, and  apparently it’s considered poor form to jump up from your chair hooting and hollering when you see your kid’s report card. We aren’t with them on the playground when they include the kid who doesn’t usually get picked first. We aren’t there to high five them when they show compassion to a classmate. 

But sidelines are meant for biggest fans. 

As the clock wound down on the second half with our team up 2-0, our cheering section hollered. The kids basked in the glory as their coach placed medals around their necks. 

Yes, the win was exciting. But watching our little people become bigger people in every sense of the word was truly thrilling. 

Any biggest fan would agree.   

 

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