rules for the ride home

Rules for the Ride Home

Child psychologists, parenting experts, and your spouse have already told you all the things you can’t say to your kid after their game. When your child walks off the field, you give them a high five or, depending on the look on their face, a wide berth. Then you just let them know you loved watching them play. Period.

That plan might get you to the parking lot. But what about the ride home? Best-case scenario, you’ve got 15 minutes of air time to fill, but for lots of families, it’s 30-60. Maybe more. That’s a lot of time to not ask your kid why they didn’t kick the ball into the net when they were standing in front of it.

You could always raise another topic. But knowing enough about their latest TikTok or Xbox obsession to formulate a conversation-starting question will take the energy you just spent watching them play. And do you really want their take on last night’s casserole, your new haircut, or the outfit you picked out for them for your family photo? 

The truth is, those 60 minutes of soccer you both just lived through are conversation gold. Don’t let them go to waste.

Dig into the other team

Sure, you’re just there to watch your kid have fun, but let’s not pretend you didn’t give the competition a few good hard looks. It’s perfectly normal. And if you don’t think they enunciated their huddle breakout very well, you can say so. That’s not being “judgy.” Besides, there are probably lots of positive things you can say, too, like how evenly the parents arranged their chairs down the sideline.

Focus on the coach

Admittedly, this is tricky territory. Mostly because you and your kid interact with the coach in very different ways. While your child has actual conversations with him, you just analyze his facial expressions from 50 yards away like an English major at a liberal arts college. Play it safe and stick to universal themes, like which style of the club’s logo apparel work best on him, whether he’s really growing a beard or was just in a rush that day, and thoughts on his new shades. Easy peasy.

Take the officials, please!

Let’s be honest, if you saw the ref in line at Chipotle, you wouldn’t even be curious whether he’s team taco or team burrito. But when he declares that the goal your kid just scored was offside, you’ll want to know much more about him. Since your kid can do more with technology during their daily 90 minutes of screen time than you’ll ever accomplish, just hand over your phone and start driving. Within minutes they’ll find the ref’s voting records and hack into his account. That gives you plenty to talk about.

Attack the field

Your child will always have an opinion about the soccer pitch, and the beauty is, it will never be your fault. Whisper “field” softly under your breath and wait for the deluge. You’ll hear about every perfect shot that was ruined by a rock, divot, or bald patch. Then you’ll hear how the field was too shaggy, muddy, wide, narrow, sloped, or poorly painted. Finally, there’s the plot twist where your child “nearly died” shagging a ball from a busy street or the snake-infested forest behind the team bench. Now remember, this doesn’t have to be a one-sided conversation. Chime in about the overflowing trash cans and the porta-john inspection chart that was 2 months out of date.

See, there’s plenty of soccer to talk about without having to burden your kid’s future therapist. But feel free to pivot to tried-and-true subjects like the book report diorama due tomorrow that they haven’t started, whether their room is “clean,” and how that piano is not going to practice itself.

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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