We had our son late in life. While I was pregnant, even though I didn’t know if he was a boy or a girl, I constantly talked to my nascent child and reminded him that he was being born into a family of passionate sports fans. I would assure him that, while I would love him no matter what, he might find it more comfortable joining our family if sports were something he was interested in. Well, he entered the world and, by the time he was three, it became very clear that sports are indeed a passion for him - which makes me very happy and a little nervous. Why a little nervous? Well, because now I am going to have to be a Sports Mom. I will have to be a part of the legions of parents that stand or sit on the sidelines and watch their kid win, lose, not play well, get hurt, feel the highs and experience the lows. Can I handle it? I didn’t know until today, when my son started to play in his first league…flag football.
We expectantly waited for this moment for about three months: January 7th. My son knew the date by heart and asked everyday for several weeks when it would arrive. As dawn broke on this Sunday morning and my son awoke, I realized that life was going to change a lot for the next several years.
I was smart enough to order the league shorts, so he knew at least half of what he was wearing. It was the fastest he has ever gotten dressed. I got the checklist of things we needed to bring: mouthguard…check; practice football...check; water bottle...check; snacks…check; light-up sneakers…um, check? Maybe I should have bought some cleats. Oh, well. Starbucks…check. We are ready to go.
My son is nervous and, when we get to the field, I feel a little jittery myself. To make matters worse, the coach hasn’t shown up. Um…where is he? All of the other parents are wondering, too, as we are watching the other teams get organized with new jerseys and practice drills. How is my son going to learn and be able to compete? He is missing practice time!!! Calm down…remember, he is five. Phew! The coach finally shows up. He seems nice, although a bit scattered and distracted. You see, his son is supposed to play on our team but is instead in tears because he doesn’t want to. So, our coach is now spending a good bit of practice time cajoling his son to play. Ahem…what about the rest of our kids? They WANT to play…focus on them! Oh yeah, they are five. Right. But, we will have to have a chat with the coach…maybe later.
As practice finally begins, I notice my son is struggling with his mouth guard. I say it out loud and another parent asks if I got the one that you boil and mold to his mouth. HUH? One that you boil? Ummm, I didn’t see that in the instructions. When I told the parent that I got the mouthguard at Target, he literally rolled his eyes and cracked up. He said, “Have you heard of Big 5?” Of course I have, but who knew that there are special mouthguards that you can mold to your kid’s teeth? That note wasn’t include in the equipment list that the league sent. Then he asked to see our practice football. Yikes! I asked him as I handed it to him, like a young Jedi asking Master Yoda, if the ball was ok because I also got it at Target, much to my chagrin. He smiled, chuckled, and said I had done well, despite the store that I bought it at. Thank goodness. At least I got that one right.
Next faux pas, I ordered a small shirt for my son, which came down to his knees - not particularly good when you are trying to run down a football field. I swear they didn’t have the option for an extra small on their website. At least I could switch the shirt out for a smaller one! The weather forecast had said that it was going to be about 60 degrees, so I came bundled up. After the first hour, the sun was so hot that all I wanted to do was strip down to my underwear. I am sure that is something the league would have frowned upon and, for sure, the other parents would not have been too excited about. Now I see why those seasoned parents bring umbrellas and folding chairs with awnings. Ok, that will be on the list for next week!
At last, after all of this, they start the game. They needed one of the kids to sit out because they play 5 on 5. Who volunteers first to sit out? You got it... my son. What?! I have waited a lifetime for this moment...to see my child playing in a real game. And he volunteers to sit out?! The thoughts race through my head. Why would he want to sit out? Why doesn’t he want to play? Why?! Then I remember to take a deep breath and realize that he is five, he is a bit nervous, and he is unsure. He just wants to check things out. Remember, this is not about you, mom. This is about him. In that moment, I learned my first lesson of being a parent with a kid in sports. This is about the kids. It is about building their confidence, making sure they have fun, helping them to see that they can do it, and helping them see how important it is to work as part of a team. So, I took a deep breath and encouraged my son to watch the game so he would be able to see what he was going to do when his turn came up. And, guess what? On his first play in the game, he made a touchdown. A real touchdown. I was in absolute tears, literally crying! I was so excited for him as he got the high fives and pats on the back, feeling like a part of a team.
I am sure this path of a sports parent will be paved with tears - some created out of sadness and pain for my son’s journey as much as from joy and pride for his accomplishments. I am excited and still a little nervous, but truly happy that my son had fun, got involved, and learned a lot. After all, isn’t that what it is all about?
By: Wendy Rosenthal