My youngest is very athletic - one of the fastest kids I've ever known. In fact, he can still beat his brother four years his senior in a foot race. But he's never been much for the team sports, preferring to stay perfectly active on his own.Which has been fine with me.
He expressed mild interest just over a year ago, and at the time I jumped on it. Having never showed any desire to participate in a team sport, I was encouraged that since we had just moved to a new area it might help him make new friends. There was a camp starting in August, and I told him that would be a good way for him to try it out and decide if it was something he wanted to pursue. Alas, camp time came around and he got cold feet, and made himself content to be an armchair quarterback for our beloved Green Bay Packers for the season.
Over the course of the next year, he met some friends and they started playing some pickup games. "Hey, Mom, wanna go throw the football?" started to be a common question. Of course, I'll never say no if my kid wants to go outside and do something with me. And actually, it was good for me, as I learned and perfected my spiral at maybe a 60% accuracy rate. Not bad for this old chick. His arm got stronger, he got better at throwing, more agile at catching. I was impressed.
Before camp time even rolled around the next year he was committed - plus his best friend had been playing for several years. My mom expressed her extreme concern at his choice of sport, which compelled me to fire off of one of those "I'm Ms. Kennard and I'm a paranoid freakazoid" emails to a JFL coach. I suspect I wasn't the first helicopter parent to "just check in" with a laundry list of safety questions, because he answered me in convincing detail and assured without sugarcoating the reality that everyone involved in the organization was all about training, coaching, encouraging and keeping the kids safe. Well, that's all they can do, right?
So I signed him up. For camp. Not for the season. I wasn't sure if this coddled kid could cut it for three days of butt kicking so I left him a way out. You survive the camp and we'll sign you up.
I so underestimate my son. He worked his ass off and loved it. He was challenged. He was driven. He was pushed. And he achieved. So I signed him up for the real deal.
J effing L.
OMG. OMG. OMG. OMG.
So, I'm trying to be all chill, right? I stand there with my hands on my hips and observe their practices like I'm a talent scout or something. It takes every ounce of discipline to not go running out on the field every time another kid merely bumps him and yell, "DON'T HURT MY BAYBEEEE!!!" And yes, I've resisted multiple urges to encase him in bubble wrap.
Midway through one of the first practices, he ran over to the fence and motioned me over. I shook my head. I saw how these coaches worked - they didn't want some mama's boy or some pansy parent messing with their groove. "I'm dizzy!" my son whispered to me. "Tell your coach!" I hissed, using every ounce of resistance I had not to yell, "COACH! Bring me a cold compress and a stretcher - STAT!" The coach spied him over by me and screamed, "KENNARD!" which made us both jump, and he took off running. I eagle-eyed him for the rest of the practice, waiting to rush out and catch him if he even looked close to fainting.
Did I mention they haven't even started practicing with pads?
Yeah, we did that last night. Son was instructed to go home and make sure all the pads fit in their proper places in his game pants. I opened the bag full of pads and my eyes glazed over. "This looks like a shoulder pad," I said. "MOM. These go on my LEGS." "Oh," I said convincingly. "Right." I fiddled with those damn pants and pads for about 20 minutes, then sent him over to my next door neighbor's (because he's a guy and guys know that shit.) He affirmed that they were properly placed, and I felt like a dog who had just learned a new trick. I KNOW WHERE THE PADS GO; THEREFORE I AM NOW BADASS.
Riiiiiight. I watch him hit with that helmet and I cringe. I hear the coach tell him to fall on the ball and I wince. I see him run until he can barely breathe and I die inside. And he has yet to actually tackle or be tackled.
I'm screwed. I want to be that cool mom who yells really encouraging stuff to her kid instead of watching the game through a shutter of fingers held up to my face. I've already looked up on Wikipedia the position he's playing, as well as found every defensive end on every NFL team so we can follow them during the season. I make sure the screws in his helmet are tightened after each practice. We've gone through three different mouth guards trying to find one that's "comfortable." Two different chin straps. Compression shorts. Oh, yeah, and that cup thingy. You want to see something funny - watch me trying to figure out a jock strap. Absolutely comical.
Tomorrow is weigh in. Yes, my skinny-ass son has to lose a pound to "make weight" in order to play in the league he needs to play in. I'm cool with it - I understand the rules. But I swear to God I feel like the eating disorder advocate by withholding junk food from my child for the past few days. Coach wants him there early tomorrow to run him. Just to be sure. I'm letting him order an entire pizza tomorrow night. Just to be sure.
So far I am impressed with this program and how it's run. I appreciate the fact that my son is getting some discipline. That he's learning to push himself and find out what he's made of at the hands of some very attentive, encouraging and driven coaches. And I look at my son with a new sense of admiration. I'm already proud of him. For trying. For excelling. For not giving up.
For that, I'll keep my mouth shut. For that, I'll let him do his thing and those who know what they're doing do theirs. For that, I'll be that sideline mom that encourages instead of hovers - and prays a lot for his safety and my sanity.
And I will always be the one to say yes to "Hey Mom! Wanna go throw the football?"
Go get 'em, Kid.