I Get More Than I Give, and It Matters

The other evening I was driving Daughter to her voetbal practice.

Voetbal (soccer back in the US), is something that brings her great joy.

Not a ‘like to do’. It’s her passion.

So when we arrived two years ago, we researched and queried and found a Dutch club with  coaches and a program reflecting a strong commitment to developing their female players.

Daughter went to tryouts and found a friendly group of similarly committed girls who welcomed the lone American with zero Dutch language skills. And she’s never looked back.

Through the vagaries of the teenage years, and adjustment to expat life, voetbal has been her rock. Her touchstone.

Only thing is, Sassenheim is thirty minutes driving from Den Haag, IF there’s no traffic. We’re talking about a commitment to making the trek three times a week (two evenings and game day).

Time-consuming, to say the least. Inconvenient? Often. Tedius? At times.

It has also meant individual and familial compromise and support.

For Daughter, it means staying organized and on top of homework and school projects. Often studying or working on her laptop as we make the trip. Establishing priorities, juggling tasks, sometimes missing out on fun with friends because of her commitments. 

For Husband and Son, it has meant a commitment as well. Being gracious and flexible about shifting schedules and routines at home. Pitching in, helping out, picking up slack. Going with the flow.

For me, it’s time and energy and driving.

Oh, and less sleep on those weekend mornings when Daughter’s game is damn early. The players need to be present an hour before home games, even earlier if we are caravaning to an away game. (The latter two are referred to as a ‘double damn’ and ‘triple damn’, respectively.)

Over time, I’ve learned to reframe my way of viewing the time I wait for her to complete the evening practices. Rather than feel all ‘woe is me, there are so many other things I could be doing’, I’ve learned to actually do some of them.

Seriously, I’ve learned to look at those evenings as gifts of uninterrupted time, to do with as I please. Sometimes it’s taking Oli on a long walk along bikepaths and field canals.

Other times it’s planning a project. Drafting a piece. Reading, for work and for pleasure. At times it’s just sitting quietly and letting the noise and mayhem in my mind subside.

And occasionally it’s wandering over to the playing fields to observe Daughter and her teammates working and laughing equally hard.

It’s also given me the opportunity to observe Dutch life in a small town, and how it differs from our more urban lifestyle.

And we’ve all seen far more of this country than we might have otherwise, traveling for games to the nooks and crannies of places that don’t show up on a tourist’s map but that reflect life as it is lived by many Nederlanders.

I’ve seen frost-covered fields on sleepy autumn mornings, children jostling to greet Sinterklas arriving on a tractor-pulled flatbed, the newborn lambs dotting the Dutch landscape in spring.

It’s also afforded the opportunity to talk quietly with Daughter while driving home. As with many teens, if they’re relaxed and in a good mood, they will open up. Well, it’s more like giving you a peek into their thoughts, but I’ll take it.

So why do I give up several hours a week to chauffer Daughter hither and yon?

For the same reason I drove up and down back roads last week to photograph the beautiful flower fields blooming now during the tulip tourist season.

It’s why I was the crazy American woman pulling her car over to the side during dusk to capture the beauty of Nature’s unique offering in my chosen land.

I choose to do so because I get much more than I give. And it matters.


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