Looking up at the clock, our hosts suddenly brought the cozy morning to a halt, and began scooping up strollers and hurtling around closets rooting for socks. The oldest child donned a shiny uniform and tiny cleats, and had the maple syrup unceremoniously wiped from his ruddy cheeks by his mom.
"It's picture day."
This meant nothing to us. But we piled down the steps and followed our friends. Outside it was bright and breezy, one of those rare, gorgeous, peaceful San Francisco mornings. As we turned a corner, we were hit by a high-pitched roar of noise. Then, slowly, we walked into an alien sea, a veritable ocean, of what seemed like thousands of five year olds and their parents, crammed into a fenced patch of grass covering most of a city block. All of the children were randomly running and screaming. Parents were chatting and laughing and yelling at the running children. Everyone had coolers, cameras, umbrellas and folding chairs. It was utter chaos, and it terrified me to the bone.
"We have to get out of here," I said to my husband. "Now."
Best form of birth control, ever.
It didn't last.
Soon enough, it was picture day on our own patch of grass.
Not only was I no longer petrified, I was somehow coaching the team. I had zero experience, but if you signed up to coach, you got to pick your practice time. As a working parent, schedule trumped competence in my book.
It was a trial and error process. Once, I brought a white board and dry erase markers to practice, intending to diagram plays, or at least try to communicate the idea of whose goal was whose.
"Oh, yay! Coloring!!! Pass the purple!!"Needless to say, it didn't go well*.
Finally, I developed a strategy of giving big hugs for each goal, and that seemed to work just fine.
My coaching days are long over, but a decade later, there I am on that patch of grass with my folding chair and camera, chatting and laughing. Perfectly at home in that veritable sea, the warm, friendly, comfortable ocean of parents like me.
Best clichéd stereotype, ever.
Oh, and even after all these years? Snack is still the best part of the game.