A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother. – Proverbs 15:20 (NIV)
When I was pregnant with Eldest, my doctor looked at my feet and essentially said that I was built for breeding (I guess the bone structure that gave me size 10 feet also allowed ample pelvic space to grow and deliver babies). When Eldest was born – after 15 hours of active labor, so clearly I wasn’t built for quick deliveries – one of the first things I noticed about him was the size of his feet. They say you can tell how big a puppy is going to be by the size of their paws. My reaction at Eldest’s feet was that he would be big.
Both my boys have always been near the top of the growth charts. Eldest is now 6’5” and Youngest will probably catch up with me before he leaves middle school. I may have been built for breeding, but I was also built for boys.
Don’t get me wrong. If God had given us a girl, I would love her completely. I love the week my nieces spend with us each summer. It was fun thinking of Eldest’s date for Homecoming as we looked at corsages and I bought him a tie. But there is something about boys.
I’ve always been athletic (certainly not athletically gifted, but active). When I was in fifth grade, I wanted to play flag football but was told that girls had to be cheerleaders. So I was a cheerleader for two years. In college, Dave and I had season tickets to Gopher basketball and football. Many Sunday afternoons have been spent watching NASCAR and the Packers (I even loved them in the late 80’s and early 90’s when it was beyond painful to be a Packer fan – maybe this is what nurtured my sense of hope).
As the boys got older, we have done swimming lessons, t-ball, basketball, flag and tackle football, volleyball, track, and who knows what else. I have been to more practices, scrimmages, games and meets than I ever had of my own.
And I love it.
I have participated and watched enough sports to understand the games and know what is going on. I’ve watched my boys – and their friends – grow up and hone their skills. I’ve seen tough losses and unbelievable wins. I’ve been a part of it with them.
Football is one of my favorites. I love the game and as a parent I love the team nature. No football team can win as an individual effort. Whether you have a passing or running game, you have to have a strong offensive line. And a strong offense doesn’t matter if the defense allows the same or more points. Teammates all need to execute the same play, they need to block for one another, you need to trust one another.
But as the boys have progressed in football, they speak a language with Dave that I don’t understand. I know the positions and what they do, why you do a hard count on third and short, and when you need to go for it on fourth down. But I don’t fully understand the read-option, know which play is a 34-dive, or other play-specific conversations they have. I don’t know what the quarterback says in the huddle or what coaches say at half-time. I haven’t experienced two-a-day practices. I’ve never worn pads or a helmet for hours on end. I don’t know what they do in team meetings. I can no longer be part of what they are experiencing.
And this is hard.
As my kids grow up, I’ve been a part of what they do. Other than anatomy, I’ve had experiences in most things they have experienced. I’ve walked with them in their life. But football has come to be a part of their life I don’t share in that same way. I haven’t walked the halls of a school as big as Homestead or been to a state Forensics meet. I haven’t asked a girl to Homecoming. As much as I love football, it also represents that soon they will be independent adults, living their own lives.
This is good news. After all, we didn’t bring them into this world to keep them children forever. Our privilege as parents is to walk with our children as we teach them to walk on their own. As thankful as I am that they can now dress themselves, make breakfast, and do their own homework, these are also ways that they won’t need me anymore.
So as good as this news is, it is also hard news.
At Homestead, varsity teams have team dinner once a week. For sports with smaller teams, parents will take turns hosting these dinners at their house. For football, team dinner is at the school cafeteria. Each week, our family is assigned drinks, main course, side or dessert – enough to feed 12-15 hungry boys. While Eldest has been dressing for varsity games all season, and has played in a few, it wasn’t until the play-offs that he has been included in the team dinner.
I’ve made a crockpot full of BBQ meatballs, ten pounds of loaded potatoes, and four dozen large monster cookies (with red M&M’s).
I’ve spent more time cooking for our contribution to team dinner than I have for any dinner my family has had in the last several weeks. Like many moms, I go to the dinner to help set-up and serve food. I love watching the boys come through the line, filling their plates, often eating a sandwich with the other hand. They ask for the food they want and most say thank you after you put it on their plate.
Team dinner has become a way that I can be involved in Eldest’s football experience. I haven’t experienced high school football like Dave has. I can’t participate in some of the technical discussions they have.
But I can cook food for hungry boys.
So I cheer in the stands, and I cook for team dinner. And I watch my boys grow into men.
My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. – Proverbs 6:20 (NIV)