Harrington: Soccer Mom Update

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Political analysts always look for the demographic that will swing a
presidential election. College English instructor, former newspaper
editor and commentator Elaine Harrington has been thinking about soccer
moms – who once were supposed to have this important role.

Remember soccer moms? They were the educated, minivan-driving women who
were raising children in suburbia – and the demographic that was going
to tip the 1996 presidential election for or against incumbent Bill

In 1992, U.S. Senator Patty Murray won her Washington
state election as a "soccer mom in tennis shoes." And by 1996, The
Washington Post reported the term, as "the overburdened middle income
working mother who ferries her kids from soccer practice to scouts to
school." She was on the cover of Time Magazine. And the Wall Street
Journal called her "the key swing voter who will decide the election."

far, the soccer mom hasn’t been invoked as a force in this November’s
election – but I’m here to report (somewhat impartially) that soccer
moms still exist. Soccer dads do too, and this summer I spent a week as a
soccer grandma.

I was the driver, food supplier, equipment
manager, photographer, and cheerleader for my young grandsons as they
attended soccer camp in Montpelier.

I also have some soccer mom history – thanks to a daughter who played the sport in junior high.

then, some things have really changed, and others haven’t. The
mini-vans of the 1996 stereotype still tote children and sports
equipment. The parking lot at soccer camp was filled with Expeditions,
souped-up Outbacks, and Grand Caravans. My Jetta seemed out of place,
but it did carry two boys and all their gear.

Soccer parents
still watch their children on the field, while chatting about school
issues and local politics. Playdates are still being arranged. Nothing
new there.

But there were lots more soccer dads, healthier snacks, vigilant sunscreen use, and electronics everywhere.

moms and soccer dads were busily coordinating arrivals and departures,
and meetings that they had to attend. Many were answering e-mails on
their iPhones. Most wore Patagonia or Vermont business casual. One man
wore a tie, and a few women tottered on high-heeled sandals over the
grassy field. Others relaxed in the sun.

Official snack and
water breaks were frequent – so out came the healthy munchies. Apples
and baggies of cheesey, whole grain little Goldfish were big. Parents
dabbed more sunscreen on their children, if they didn’t wiggle away. All
sensible ideas.

We can now document everything and
electronically share it – almost before it finishes happening – and that
was the mode for some parents. "Dude, you were so cool," called a dad
to his son from the sidelines, holding up his iPhone. "Look at that
awesome goal." Many of us took photos but waited until camp was over to
share them with our players.

Technology also helps today’s
soccer parents in other ways. My brother Ron, who owns a software
business, is often at the soccer field in Shelburne with his son and
daughter while still keeping in touch with work – something the 1996
soccer mom could never do, with her either/or choices.

But so far, soccer moms and dads don’t have the responsibility of choosing the next president.

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