Joanna over at Secondhand Sun sent me an interesting article from the Washington Post that talks about the friendships we form through our children’s activities and what happens when they all leave home. Sociologists call these “contingent communities” and they often are a rock in your world even if the friendships aren’t much beyond the time you spend during your children’s activities.
They’re not your best friends. You may or may not agree with them politically, and you probably don’t return their phone calls right away. But they provide, at least, continuity to your life, as well as a certain level of caring, and what you do with them gives some form to your otherwise frenzied weeks. When the baritone moves out of the area or the clerk gets promoted to another department, the loss can be palpable.
Losing acquaintances formed through your children can be especially poignant, because there’s a good chance that as you scrambled your way up from bank teller to head of securities, those other parents you saw on game days were really the only community you had.
An odd thing happens to middle-class managers, lawyers, consultants and other professionals who organize their children’s social lives with the same diligence they apply to their jobs. They are convinced they are the quarterback when in fact it’s the kids who, by the time they’re in middle school at least, are calling the plays. Parents used to organize their children’s social lives. Now children organize their parents’ social lives.
You really don’t realize what you’ve lost, in terms of the friends made at the soccer fields, until things change and you aren’t shivering on the sidelines at 8:30AM together anymore. You don’t have to be an empty nester to experience this either. If your team splits as often happens every couple of years in recreational soccer, you may keep a small core together, but the rest come and go. It can be hard. I know we had built up many friendships that started when our kids were 4 and 5. We coached them up through U8 and the bulk of the group stayed together. However my U10 team didn’t have nearly enough room to absorb the U8’s moving up so they formed a new team and we suddenly found ourselves broken up. It was very hard, even though we try to stay in touch and see many of them on match days. But clearly something was lost.
The bonds are even stronger on travel teams which can stick together from the time kids are 9 up through high school. Are you really prepared for what happens after all the kids graduate? If you really want those friendships to last, it can’t hurt to try and get them held together by more than just the weekly soccer matches.