Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Faking It at Being a Football Mom

Mike used to study kung fu. I used to practice tai chi, but love watching any of it, karate, kung fu, tai chi.  And Mike and I were river rats. We've paddled canoes, rafts, and kayaks. I still consider myself to be a river rat, just an old dried out one. We were never team sports people. We don't really watch sports on TV unless you count curling and the Olympics. So, it is with some regret that I'm telling you that Nick has joined a football team.

I'm trying to be enthusiastic. To the outside world, I'm talking to new coaches and fellow parents with pride. I described my uninitiated son to the new coach as a novice, but a very strong kid. The man was genuinely enthusiastic when I described his build. Then, I went on to talk about his history in karate.

"He's a second degree brown belt," I told him.

"He's very good at sparring and grappling," I said. I love watching Nick practicing in his karate uniform. It suits him. He's been training since he was six, eight years ago. I would have told the coach about how lethal he looks using his nun chuks if I could have found a way to tie it into football. I couldn't.

I would have told the man how he looked paddling a canoe, how his J-stroke is coming along and we're thinking of taking him down a simple stretch of the river in the bow soon to get him started reading the river. I would have told him how Nick said he loved our canoe, that we were planning a three day family trip this summer with two of his best friends. I wanted to find a way to work the river into the football story I was telling the coach. I couldn't.

"He doesn't have to know anything. We'll train him right from the beginning," the coach said and my eyes began to glaze over.

I'm going to have to go watch football games. I'll do it. I'll cheer. I'll be proud of my boy, always. See, I've already taken some pictures of him out on the field. I've looked at the faces of the other parents who are also snapping photos of their boys.

Do they really think their sons are going to be the stars of the team? Do they dream of a high school career, college, or even the NFL for their children?

I don't. Not really. The only reason I want Nick to play is that I want him to get some new form of exercise to keep him moving. I want him to meet some people from his new school. And I want him to have fun.

That's it.

Is it bad that I don't really want Nick to play football for the next four years? Is it wrong that I would dread college or professional football the way I'd dread if Nick took up cage fighting? I'm not hoping he'll be a star. I don't exactly see that popularity as being good for a kid. It might be a relief to some parents. The other day, I ran into a friend and her son in the grocery store. He was so cute and personable. I was sure he was among the top-tier of the popular kids. I could tell that she was proud of that. But not being popular builds resilience. What was this boy going to do when something went wrong? How would he tell the difference between people who genuinely liked him and those who liked him for his looks alone? What if things didn't go his way after high school and he ended up stuck in that high-school zone? I saw the most popular girl in my high school stuck in that zone ten years after we graduated. She worked at K-Mart as a cashier and still had the audacity to look down on me though I'd graduated from college as an engineer and was doing well at my aerospace company.

No, I'd rather Nick not be in the popular crowd. Oh, I don't wish him to be a pariah either, but he's always been too social for that. He has a few good friends. What else does a kid need?

So today, I sat in the stands, clicking photos of Nick in a futile attempt to get something worthy of Facebook, and I secretly hoped that Nick would have fun at football but decide to go back to karate when the season is over. I hoped that he'd plan more time on the water next summer. I hoped that football would give him strength and agility and that he'd be able to bring all that back to karate and paddling our canoe and exploring the wilderness.

I just hope I cheer at the right times from the stands.

Thank you for listening, jules

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