Football Dreaming

Our eighth grader does not yet weigh 80 pounds, despite much effort to gain weight over the last year. Yet he sees himself as a football quarterback. He has the leadership skills for it, but…

When a high school principal asked him a few weeks ago what activities he would like do at her school, he said, “Basketball, guitar, debate, maybe robotics, and if I gain 100 pounds this summer, I want to play football.”

She thought he was joking, and was totally charmed.

The dream continues to percolate. “Mom,” he said the other day, “how much exactly would I have to weigh for you to let me play football?”

“A hundred and fifty.”

“Seriously?! But I’d be playing quarterback. I wouldn’t get hurt!”

“Okay, a hundred.” Might as well make it sort of attainable.

Meanwhile, his older brother is at the 150-pound mark. Strong. Loves to get in the way. Would make a decent offensive lineman. But he plans to sacrifice his body to football in another way.

When he got his learner’s permit, he registered as an organ donor. “I’m donating my collarbone to Aaron Rodgers.”

…because even the best quarterbacks with bones bigger than toothpicks get tackled. And there are many ways to be a part of a sport you love. Sometimes, when you’re a 13-year-old boy, it’s just tough to see that.

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His Arm in a Sling

Yesterday, the name of my sons’ school flashed as the phone rang. Ugh. Images of vomit on his school supplies or his hands around someone’s throat at recess flashed in my head.

“Hellooooo?” Please say it’s vomit.

My fourth grader had apparently crashed into the fence during a football game and was claiming he broke his collarbone. (A potential copycat injury, as our friend broke his last weekend.)

“Jennifer, he’s sitting in the office with me right now, and we have ice on it.” Her voice was sing-songy as if to say “read between the lines, Mama.”

“Soooo, is this a come-get-him kind of broken collarbone or the kind that ice is making better?”

“Ohhh, I think the ice is doing a goooood job.”

I laughed. Ice is magical.

“But the teacher on recess duty is coming to confirm that he’s okay. How about I call you back after she checks out his shoulder?”

“I’m here if you need me.”

Then she whispered, “He’s very cute.”

Ten minutes later, the phone rang. “Now Jennifer, he thinks he can stay for Chess Club, but he doesn’t want you to be alarmed when you pick him up, because his arm is in a sling.”

What a player.

Two hours later, I picked him up from Chess Club. “Oh goodness! That must have really hurt!”

Dropped his friends at their house. And as I got back in the car to take him home, he pulled the sling off, big grin on his face as he waved his arm around.

“Phew,” he said. “I think it’s better.”

 

For the Love of the Game

Our two middle school sons play flag football on the same rec league team, and as I watched their first game under the Tuesday night lights, I realized that later, it would sound like they had played on completely different fields. One would strut to the car as if they had won (they did not), and the other would approach, head bowed, teeth clenched.

For the first, it has never mattered if his team wins or loses (unless he’e watching the Packers on tv). If he makes one good catch, it’s a victory. Last night he made two, including a one-handed, over-the-head grab. You should have seen his grin. He’s an “I’m just happy to be here” kind of player. A big guy, coaches play him at center, which means he is involved in every play. But he’s almost as happy standing on the sidelines talking about the game with his coach.

His younger brother has the body of a sports statistician but the mind and competitive will of a quarterback. When he is not leading the charge, he feels ignored. When he is, the opposing team looks larger than life. But he runs smart plays that give his team an edge, and he knows it.

The Blue Jays’ chosen quarterback threw him one pass, which he caught for a two-point conversion. As he held onto the ball in the end zone, I felt that “phew” moment moms feel when we think we know our athletes will be pleased that they played their play well.

I should know him better than that.

As the game wore on, and he was left out of one play after another, I could see the frustration build in those piercing blue eyes all the way from the sidelines. It’s not “I’m just happy to be here” or even “put me in, coach.” It’s “give me the ball,” “let me lead the team.” Even if they had made it to the rec league Super Bowl last night, he would have seen the game as a defeat.

Two boys who love football. Same team. Different game.

 

 

It’s a Boy Thing

After a week with my three boys at the beach, it dawned on me yet another reason why boys and girls are different. Boys enjoy driving each other crazy for sport.

It is a constant effort to see how far they can go before the other goes bat-shit crazy. I do not remember that in a house of three girls.

They poke each other. Jump out from behind corners to scare each other. Take every opportunity to remind each other of a favorite football team’s meltdown in the Super Bowl.

They have old lady nicknames for each other like Carol and Sally and then use them until their brother can’t take it anymore.

They remind each other of the embarrassing things they did yesterday or last year or six years ago. “Remember when you pooped at the pool? “Well, you pooped on the beach!”

Poke. Shove. Poke. “Hey, Carol, remember when…”

In the end, after all three laugh until their sides ache, someone always storms off. “They are sooo mean.”

But fifteen minutes later, they are back together, back at it, back to smiles and that little-boy twinkle in their eyes. All for one and one for all.

I pointed this observance out to them. They all grinned, “That’s why boys are more fun.”

The Puberty Excuse

Please note: The nine year old, no matter what he says, is a master chore-avoider. But yes, teenage brothers can be disappointing.

His big brother is being a jerk, so he storms up the beach and sits in the chair next to mine with his arms crossed in anger. “He is such a teenager!”

“That’s no excuse to be mean,” I say, as witness.

“I know! If he doesn’t want to play basketball, he says he’s too tired, because he’s in puberty,” a good mimic. “When he doesn’t want to play football with us, he uses the puberty excuse again.”

As if “the puberty excuse” is a real term everyone uses.

“When you make us switch the laundry, we fold everything wondering where he is, calling his name, and he doesn’t come help. All he has to do is load the dirty stuff, but noooooo. And when we’re all done, we find him watching some dumb YouTube video in his room, and he looks up and says, ‘I can’t help it. I’m in puberty.’”

The nine year old marches off, still ranting, “It drives me crazy.”

Quote from an Eight Year Old

We were talking about the complicated web of rules and social alliances an eight year old boy must negotiate to survive recess. He is frustrated with the inconsistency of friendships and where he falls in the order of teammates picked. He says he sometimes feels invisible.

I have found that the second through fourth grade years are tough on boys, as they become aware of athleticism, the cool factor, and “boy world” pecking order. I was advising him to choose a different game or friend on days when football brings him down. Recess is supposed to be fun.

He looked at me, deeply serious. Eyes big and teary. “But would you rather people were friends with you for who you really are, or who you want to be? I want them to pick me to be their friend because of who I already am.”

The Best Vacation

Spring Break 2016 has ended, and I return from a week at the beach certain that it was the best vacation ever. Ideal weather. Tan but no sunburn. Lots of rest despite the roosters. Delicious lobster quesadillas for lunch three out of seven days. Softest sand on the planet between our toes. Clear blue water.

Sounds great, but “best ever” because…

Our three boys played together in the water, splashing through waves that looked too large… even larger when I was in the water with them several times a day. We dove under waves, Let them crash on our heads. They talked and laughed and made up silly games as the waves kept pummeling us.

They told stories, gave opinions, laughed more, told jokes, paused mid-sentence, dove under, and came up talking. Tireless. Fearless.

They played hours of football with Dad.

We made two styles of sandcastle. A multilevel traditional fortress and a drippy one that received a “Lovely drippy castle. Well done!” from a British accent who walked by as we completed it. They were both our best to date.

The boys read good books and talked about them. Killer Angels, Moneyball, Wings of Fire.

They helped the youngest find Orion in the night sky.

If I could have stopped time a hundred times since they were born, I would have. At each moment, I imagined I could not love them more. But then we would not have had this vacation and I would not have seen how sweet they are together at 8 and 12 and 13, how much fun they have with their brothers.

And I might not understand that “best ever” and “love more” will happen again and again, washing over us like the waves and the sun.