My son threw the football with his dad almost every night of the spring and summer. He practiced running patterns and over the shoulder catches.
He got up early most mornings to run or lift weights or go for a bike ride.
He has been eating healthy, eliminating soda and juices from his diet.
He did these things without anyone telling him to. He did them because he wanted to feel strong and healthy. For himself.
And for football.
His last two seasons ended prematurely, one with a broken arm and one with a dislocated shoulder.
But this year he was prepared, physically and mentally, to take the season by storm. He had done the work. He was strong. He was ready.
And he was awesome.
He played in scrimmage on Saturday – ten defensive plays followed by ten offensive plays. In ten defensive plays, he sacked the quarterback twice, caused a fumble, recovered a fumble, and got in on two more tackles. Awesome.
Then his team had their turn on offense. During the very first play, the quarterback handed it off to the running back - my boy. We stood at our seats as he approached the line of scrimmage and slightly gasped as he took the first hit, and the second, and the third. But he was still on his feet, busting through for another five yards before…
One guy, two guys grabbed onto his body trying to pull him down. He reached out with his arm, fighting them off and gaining a few more yards before the third came along and finally brought him to the ground.
My husband and I looked at each other and smiled. It was a very good run. Maybe this running back thing would work out for him.
Then we turned our eyes back to the field where our son remained on the ground.
It could have been worse. In a sport like this, it could have been way worse.
He knew right away that he had dislocated his shoulder again. He knew right away that his season was over.
It could be so much worse.
Yet, still, I weep for him.
We had hoped that the first time was a one time thing. We allowed him to play this year because of the look on his face when he comes home from practice, because of the enthusiasm he has for the game, because of the camaraderie he shares with his teammates. We let him play because of the joy it brings him.
But, it wasn’t a one time thing, the shoulder dislocation. And with each time it happens, there is a trip to the ER, elevated blood pressure, and so very much pain. With each time it happens, it is more likely to happen again.
On Sunday morning, we told our beautiful, strong, athletic son, our son who has long identified himself as a football player, that this was a career ending injury. That he can no longer play the game that has lit up his eyes for the past five years.
Our son has always been a glass half full kind of kid – one who finds the silver lining no matter how well it is hidden. But, still, I expected anger. Days and days of anger. No person likes to give up something they feel passionate about, something that brings them success and joy. And he’s only fourteen years old. I expected anger and bargaining and pleading.
The way this young man handled, and is still handling, his disappointment, his sadness, his anger? Well, it left me wondering what I did to deserve such a person in my life. It left me confident that he will be okay. Not only with this situation, but with any other obstacles that come his way.
Most of all, it left me proud and awed and so very grateful that I get to see him grow. I get to see what he becomes. I get to be the one whom he calls Mom.
I have heard that part of being a good parent is teaching your children how to live through disappointment – how to handle frustration and sadness when things go wrong. I’m not sure that I’ve taught my son anything about that. I think I’ve learned that lesson from him instead.
What I hope I have taught him, and my daughters, too, is that when they are sad and disappointed and angry, I will be there. I will be there in body or spirit or any possible way that they need me to be. I hope that they have learned, that no matter what the cause or the outcome, I will be there wishing I could absorb their pain into me. I will be there loving them through it.
Because, really, what more can I do?
My son went to school yesterday with his arm in a sling. He understands. He looks forward. He smiles. But, of course, there is still sadness in his eyes. Though it may be “just a game,” a recreational past time, he has, without a doubt, suffered a loss.
I texted my husband to ask if he thought it would be okay if I drove to school every couple of hours to give our son a hug. He replied, “Let me know how that goes.”
Question: What do you know about water polo?