As the mother of two young boys, I’m used to a fair amount of “icky girl” syndrome. My oldest son is not yet at an age when girls are interesting, while my younger son is only now figuring out that girls are different in ways he doesn’t understand.
You can imagine my pride then, when the oldest begged to watch the finals of this year’s World Cup. And that’s what he called it. The World Cup. Not the Women’s World Cup. Simply, the World’s Cup. He chanted “USA” and walked around quoting the I Believe mantra.
“We’ve done it!”, I silently congratulated myself. We’ve raised boys who simply see sports, who like soccer, who enjoy watching athletic prowess, in both men and women. They are second-generation Title 9 kids, who don’t recall not seeing girls play sports. My boys played soccer with girls on their team. They don’t recall a time when the boys got a whirlpool in their locker room while the girls didn’t.
In my hometown high school, this whirlpool disparity was a source of consternation. Not because anyone worried about the girls. The concern arose because the visiting teams – boys, obviously – used the girls’ locker room, and were denied this essential piece of recovery equipment. Unfair, they cried.
The finals game proceeded in that amazing, wonderful, winning way. The stunning, over-whelming victory that will now be part of American folklore unfolded in front of us all. This story is now part of our shared story, and more so than the 1999 victory. The victory in China – at the time – was one that only a few soccer-fanatics cared about. Back then, 16 years ago, America cared less about the global sport of futbol than we do now. If possible, we cared even less about the game when women were the competitors. Not now, though. Now, the proof was in my own living room. Soccer. On the big screen. With little American boys cheering on their team, their team, as if they didn’t even realize that icky girls were the athletes.
And then it happened.
The older child complained that his younger brother was staying up past his bedtime. When we pointed out that at nearly same age, said older child was allowed to stay up and watch Germany play in the 2009 World Cup, he said it. “But, Mom, that was the REAL World Cup.”
We still have work to do.