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The Sideline Faux Pas That Had Me Fuming

Erin Zammett Ruddy

You won’t believe what a dad was doing on the soccer sidelines this weekend.

OK, so he wasn’t trash talking Alex’s team or flashing his junk at anyone, but a dad on the other team was standing right on the shared sidelines smoking a cigarette and if you ask me that’s all sorts of unacceptable. The field—and the sidelines—are miniature so it’s not like his fuming could go unnoticed. His trail of smoke was literally wafting down the field. A field of four and five year olds, most with younger siblings on the sidelines. I couldn’t believe my nose when I smelled it. And when I turned around and saw him leaning one hand on his baby’s stroller and holding his smoke in the other, nonchalantly puffing away, I felt like I was on another planet. Or like I’d traveled back in time. When I brought it up to friends later they all shared stories of dads—or moms—who used to stand on the sidelines chain smoking when we were younger. Hell, my soccer coach and my art teacher used to smoke around us all the time. But times have changed, no? This is 2012 last time I checked and smoking (particularly in front of kids) isn't so acceptable anymore. Right?  

Have I smoked a cigarette in my life? Yes. Do I think this guy is the devil? No. Would I ever smoke cigarettes around my kids? Hell, no. Do people who smoke around their kids make me sad? Yes. But here’s the thing: It didn't just shock me that he was doing it around all the kids, it shocked me in general. I think it’s so rude for anyone to smoke that close to anyone in public, no matter their age. There are people standing on the train platform who light up next to me (at 7 a.m., mind you) and it blows me away. If you need to get your nicotine fix, do it in air we don’t have to share. This dad could have walked farther away, but I suppose he didn’t want to miss the game. Can you imagine how badly he must have needed that cigarette to light up where he did? Once again, sad.

I was so dumbfounded I couldn’t even concentrate on the game. Of course I didn’t say anything, but I did stare at him for a beat too long to let him know I noticed what he was doing. That's my wimpy, passive-aggressive weapon when people light up at outdoor picnic tables near my kids or walking in front of me on the street or before they even get all the way out the door from a movie. I give them an almost-undetectable dirty look, a slight wave of my hand in front of my face and say “ugh” a little louder than normal. Real mature, right? And really effective. Maybe if he’d had more than one saying something (politely, of course) would have been called for, but I just took mental notes and couldn’t wait to write this blog and hear what all of you think.

Would you have said something to this guy? Do you think I’m overreacting? Do parents smoke on your sidelines? Let’s discuss.