It is not often that I find myself immersed so deeply in something that I realize I have gone hours without thinking about my aussiedoodle puppies. Being the grizzlybearma that I am, the dogs are always at my feet or on my mind. It takes a really special outing, like where I was last night, to capture all of my attention. Yesterday I got the chance to walk in my son’s shoes. It was about as close as a mother could get to experiencing the world he lives in.
I went to football camp. You read that right. A fifty-four year old woman, who exercises moderately and plays tennis, signed up for a Division One College football camp. It is an annual event at my son’s school that drew over 200 ladies this year. I arrived and was given a black and gold game jersey (with my son’s number on it of course). Then the 6’5” wide receiver (a teammate of my son’s) applied black paint streaks under my eyes. The other women in jerseys with eye black milled around, took pictures and excitedly waited for things to begin.
From start to finish it was a special night for me. I have always been the cheering mom in the stands (and before that, the cheering girlfriend of my now husband). There is so much I have learned about the game of football in the thirty plus years it has been around me. Growing up in a house full of girls, football was just something that made my dad yell at the tv, or the social thing to do at high school. I never paid much attention to the game. Then I married a long snapper/tight end. We were living in Texas by the time our sons reached the age when football was offered (which, in Texas, happens to be kindergarten). First it was flag football then a few years later they were in pads and helmets. I rang cow bells, painted signs, wore spirit clothes, and never missed a game.
As the boys grew older their talents and dreams grew larger. Between volleyball with our daughter, band for our other son, and then football for the two younger boys, our time was stretched thin on weeknights and weekends. People who’d passed through this stage of life warned me this time would fly by and to enjoy it while we were in it. They were right! Involvement in sports, music performance and scouts can have a forward momentum that sometimes pushes you too fast too far into what is next. Making the travel team. Getting first chair or first team. Auditions. Recruiting. If there is just one piece of advice I wish I could pass on to eager mamabear parents with super star children it would be to help your child to enjoy the present, not get hung up on where people tell you your son or daughter could play some day. Keep supporting them and cheering them on, but don’t push them too hard.
I love my present role as proud mom-in-the-stands. My sons are living out their dreams of playing football in college. One is just beginning the journey as a freshman and one is a red shirt senior. Last night I had several moments when it hit me how awesome their football playing opportunity is. First it was the camaraderie I felt in the room. The women on my “team” and the men who coach my son day in and out were all together enthusiastically. The coaches worked with us on a couple plays up on a big screen with x’s o’s and arrows and other confusing letters. We each were assigned a position, I got running back. Then we walked through it a few times (just as the boys do). We were ready, break!
Next came the most exciting part. All two hundred of us bunched behind the large black iron gates. This is the same spot where every home game all the shiny gold helmets are seen before the team breaks through the gates and enters the stadium behind the mascot riding a motorcycle (and a fog machine). Without helmets or fog, we stormed through the open gates and entered the stadium. I imagined what my son must feel when the seats were full and the cheering was loud. It was thrilling even empty for me!
We went through warm ups and stations of drills. Slot, hitch, slant. I learned some new vocabulary. We hopped high knees over pads, tacked pads, and just basically tried not to get hurt. At one point I looked up in the stands where we usually sit, and I thought that about how my son can see me in this crowded stadium. Then came the “scrimmage” portion of our camp. We applied our twenty minute teaching of our offense against another group of women. It was fun! We ran several different options. Another aha moment for me was seeing eye to eye with the same defender. Blonde hair in pony tails with black under her eyes we laughed and said, “we meet again.” I imagined what it must be like to face the same guys throughout a game without the smiles I exchanged with my opponent. Our last play of the night, the QB faked handing it off to me, I ran past the defender and then she threw me a short pass, I caught it, made a move, and ran for a touchdown. That sounds way cooler than it looked! My son was there and was going crazy with excitement. That made my night.
Later in the evening, after taking some Advil and hydrating, I tearfully told my son how special this night was for me. His coaches are amazing men. Football is fun. I told him how lucky he and his brother are. They play the sport they love longer than many. I know how hard they work on the field and in the classroom and balancing it all. For the first time, I actually got a small taste of what drives the men in my life to love this sport. My dad played in college, my husband did and now two of my children do. I am happy that I got the opportunity to be more than a football mom for the night, but a football player. Koda and Summer would have barked loud seeing me run that ball into the end zone!