Football is in his blood, and I held him off as long as I could. It was only a matter of time, and that time has come. This is the year, and last night kicked it off: Tucker has started playing Tackle Football.
I seriously delayed all of this for as long as I could, protecting his body and his brain with the illusion of my control, until even his flag coaches were telling me it was time. He has the elements of the game. This boy needs to tackle.
We were shopping for his equipment today (which is no small situation, and could I just have a moment for that?). Peter was talking with the sales guy about items that include words like air bladder and girdle and cup, and I was thankful to not be the one navigating those conversations.
I said, “Tuck, could you help me with something?”
I put my arm around him; he put his arm around me. “Sure, Mom.”
“Would you please coach me on what on earth I am to do when you fall down hurt on the field?”
He turned to face me. I had opened a window for a conversation he very obviously wanted to have.
“Yes. If I go down, I’d like for you to take out your phone, and set a timer for five minutes. You have to promise me you won’t step onto the field until those five minutes are up. If five minutes goes by and nobody has helped me yet, then quietly let my coach know.”
“That’s a long time, buddy.”
“I know, Mom. But you have to let me handle this.”
Which is pretty much everything there is to say in seven words.
And then he said, “If it’s emergent,” (he actually used the word emergent) “then I’ll pound on my chest twice and give you the peace sign. Then you’ll know I need you.”
Right. I’ll watch for that subtle Mom Cue. Because if he’s actually seriously injured and actually needs his mom, I’m sure that three-step signal will come right to his mind. I’m absolutely confident it will go down this way.
“But otherwise, just wait for the timer to beep.”
His logic kind of blew me away. Basically, Mom, let’s agree you won’t charge the field until the timer beeps, and then you still won’t. Deal?
We met his new coach. He shook Tucker’s hand, and he said, “So, you’ve played flag football for a few years? Well done, kid. Welcome to the team. Now let’s have some real fun.”
I watched his team come over to fist bump and chest plow their new teammate. i watched my son fade into their solidarity. I watched him join the brotherhood.
I stood by the sidelines and watched him run drills, careful not to embarrass him with my very presence. But I kept my sunglasses on to hide the sudden tears. I just felt… thankful.
Thankful that he can walk, given where we were one year ago.
Thankful that I stand on these sidelines next to a man who claims my son as his own, who is walking us into this subculture of helmets and jerseys.
Thankful that I am not alone.
I’m getting ready for a muddy car,
an empty refrigerator
and tired lungs.
I will smell the fear and feel the pride.
I will drive to practices and clean the wounds.
Some people have to wait their entire lives to meet their favorite player.
I’m raising mine.
Football mom. It’s one of my favorite gigs.