Lessons From the Parking Lot

Sure, soccer parents get a bad rap for their sideline behavior, but wait until you see them in the wild. Welcome to the parking lot. The air is heavy with whining, impatience, hanger, nerves, and failed expectations. And that’s just the adults. Keep your hands and attitudes inside your car at all times.

Emotions run together like foods that should never touch each other on your kid’s plate

Enter the lot with caution. Watch for moving vehicles because they aren’t watching for you, what with drivers searching for field numbers on the team app. 

Stay vigilant. These people have just rushed out of a work meeting, therapy session, court appointment, wedding, or funeral. And somewhere in this metal maze is a family that was already running late before going to the wrong park because they missed the coach’s last-minute, telepathic update. Their car is easy to spot. Look for the driver’s white-knuckle grip and dagger eyes. Steer clear. 

Also, everyone is just starting to feel the post-traumatic stress of bumper-to-bumper rush-hour traffic in record-breaking bad weather. That’s all before a parking volunteer extorted them for $20 to park up to their running boards in a muddy field.  

Good spots will cost you

Do not underestimate the endorphin rush of pulling into the perfect parking spot at your kid’s game. Just know that it doesn’t come easy. You will be tempted, tested, and tricked. You will need eat-their-Halloween-candy-without-them-noticing sneakiness and willful blindness. If you want to get in—and out—relatively unscathed, you must commit. Because parking karma is for Target. 

Soccer parents earn their stripes—and some of their anger issues—learning where NOT to leave their car. Never park by the porta-john, or behind the goal (unless you’re driving someone else’s car). And know that the distance you park from the field is inversely proportional to the number of folding-chair-shaped scratches you’ll find in your paint job after the game. 

Want a spot in the shade? Recall Lord of the Flies and act accordingly. Love a pre-game stare-down or post-game smugness? Be sure to park next to a car sporting the other team’s stickers. Those bonus-spot, end-of-aisle parkers? Choose a creative way to thank them for totally blocking traffic. Maybe a complimentary bumper sticker of your choice. Finally, know that there is no scenario in which parking next to the coach is going to end well. 

Parking is a love language

Every soccer parent has a story about the parking lot fairy. You will too. It will open with heart-racing conflict: “We were SO late. The other kids were already warming up. It was gridlock—I couldn’t even back out and park at the megamall down the street.” Then, suddenly, your luck will change. Like opening the dryer and finding that someone has already emptied it, folded the clothes, and put them away, a parent from your team will materialize out of the gravel dust. It does not matter that you don’t remember their name. It does not matter that you’ve always thought they were “too friendly” and “over-compensating.” 

This parent will walk your kid to the field while you circle for another 45 minutes. Or they’ll whisper that there is more parking just past the medical tent. Or maybe they’ll just wink, point their key fob, and let you have their spot. You are now bonded for life.

Some cars have potty mouths

It’s not all sweet nothings, though. Park too close to assert your dominance. Back into a spot to say you’ll be the first one out after the game, period. Or pull into the handicap-accessible spot “for a quick sec” to drop your kid, unload your trunk, buy a hot pretzel, and chat up the coach. That speaks volumes. 

Exiting is a team sport

After the game, inside everyone else’s car is a strategy session. Agenda: the best route home, dinner options, and whether to get a quick x-ray. All while making bets about whether the dog has held out this long. It doesn’t matter that you’re starving/freezing/sunburned/tired/late for your other kid’s game, and that you have to pee. You will take a deep, noisy breath and creep distractedly along like everyone else. And when you’re finally one car from the exit, the driver in front of you will stop and let every other vehicle in the entire city enter the lot, waving at them as they pass, to make up for the fact that they have no friends IRL.

What happens in the parking lot, stays in the parking lot

Eventually, you will leave the lot. But the lot never leaves you. The over-heard hysterics of pre- and post-game lectures. The sound parents make when their kid tells them they forgot their cleats. A mom tweezing in the rearview. A dad closing his exercise ring in over-worked spandex. And if you hold your empty travel mug up to your ear you’ll hear the cries of parents realizing their team has to stay for the consolation game—on Sunday at 6pm.

By Karen Scholl


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Karen Scholl

In between driving to soccer practices, games, tournaments, and urgent care, Karen works as a copywriter. She helps businesses figure out what they want to say, but she’d much rather write about parenting kids who play soccer, so others realize they’re not alone on this crazy ride. You read more from Karen at CarpoolConfidential.com.

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