Commitment. Perseverance. Hard work. Always test your perceived boundaries. Give it your all. Practice makes perfect. Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Nothing in life will come easy; you have to work for what you want.
These are all statements that my children have heard me say about a million times. I strive to be a good role model for my kids; I want them to know that life is hard sometimes, but in our family, we do not give up. There is no, I can’t or it’s too hard. We combat these negative connotations with I’ll will or at least an I’ll try.
And then came Pee-Wee Football.
Last summer, my then 9-year old, began pestering us about football. “Pestering” is probably not the best word for Jameson’s tactics. My son could easily be a stand in interrogator for the CIA; James is extremely persistent when he wants something. He will question: “Can I play?” If he doesn’t get the immediate and exact answer he is looking for, he will try another approach a few minutes later: “Hey Ma, all of the guys are talking about signing up for football.” A few minutes later: “Can I sign up for football for next year? Sign up is now. We have to do it now.” Still undecided or would like to do a little research on the subject? Not on your life. My husband and I know that we are in store for badgering and constant harassment until we (a) give in, or (b) give a darn good enough reason why the answer is no. He keeps us on our toes, that’s for sure.
Finally, we came to the decision to go ahead and sign him up for pee-wee football. The $275.00 fee was a bit more than the rest of the school-sponsored sports Jameson has taken part in, but we chalked this up to the extra protective equipment that was required. Only the best for my little guy, right?
Mid July – we get an email that the coach was going to hold a volunteer “conditioning practice”, the second to last week of July. He stated that although there are very strict rules about the kids not being able to touch a football prior to 01 August, exercising as a team to get prepared was allowed. Coolio. James had spent the better part of his summer lounging around the house catching up on Netflix’s, Kickin’ It and Jessie. A little conditioning wasn’t a bad idea. Plus, it was only four days.
Conditioning was… cute. There were a handful of kids running around, doing half-ass pushups, stretching, and running drills for about an hour and a half each night. The coach seemed to promote a sense of belonging with these kids, even pausing to take a picture with them to try and entice other boys that had forgotten to show up. It was hard work, but James was having fun.
And then it began.
It started with a single email from a woman introducing herself as the “Team Mom”. She explained the practice schedule, stressed the importance of water instead of Gatorade, what the boys should be wearing, and how she couldn’t wait to meet us. Initially, I was impressed. This woman was going to be a conduit of information, flowing from the coaches to the parents, in a detailed and very specific manner. I could get into this.
Day #1, Practice, No pads – I dropped James off at the practice field walking past hundreds of parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, and dogs, in lawn chairs lining the field. I could feel the scowls as I strapped my youngest into the jogging stroller, and took off around the park for a run, instead of parking myself amongst the other spectators to watch my son practice. Seriously? 2 1/2 hours of sitting in a lawn chair to watch practice? Yeah, uh no. Just no. I did catch the last half hour, and James didn’t seem to be having as much fun as the week before in conditioning. Day #1 ended with another email from the Team Mom. Had someone brought Gatorade instead of water to practice? That’s a big no-no, she explained.
Day #2, Practice, No pads/Parent Meeting – My husband and I dropped James off at the field, and walked into what we slowly came to realize was hell. This “Parent Meeting” was nothing more than a sales pitch. If we wanted to get our $50 deposit back at the end of the year, then we were required to (a) work two shifts at the concession stand during practices and games, (b) sell a minimum of 3 TJ’s pizzas, AND (c) place a sign in our yard advertising a mattress sale where proceeds would benefit the football/cheerleading organization. On top of that, practice for the boys were mandatory, three days a week, from 5:45 – 8:30. Games would be played on Saturday and Sunday. Martin and I giggled with each other as the rest of the parents devoured every word of this ridiculousness. This was getting interesting. Again, catching the last half hour of practice, James smiled when he saw us – they were running drills, and while he looked absolutely beat, he still appeared to be having fun. That night, there were another 3 emails from the Team Mom. Gatorade is a no-no!
Day #3, No practice – There was no scheduled football practice, however the Team Mom did email me numerous times in regards to Jameson’s birth certificate (ensuring he was actually a 10-year old boy) and the upcoming weigh in. Seriously? These kids are in freaking 5th grade. This is a freaking school-sponsored team. This isn’t the Olympics. This isn’t the Pros. This isn’t even college ball. Do they really think that a parent is going to attempt to sneak their Freshman-year son onto a Pee-Wee, 5th grade team? My mind is blown by this request, however I oblige.
Day #4, Practice, no pads – The scowls as I head out on my daily run during Jameson’s practice are slowly becoming accompanied by whispers. Apparently, Pee-Wee Football is not just for the Pee-Wees but the parents are required to participate as well. And by participate, I mean these parents are sitting on their asses on the sideline, cheering their child on loudly, explaining to the other parents how their 10-year old is going to college on a full ride football scholarship, scolding the kids who drop the ball and/or make a mistake, and gossiping about the other parents behind their backs. I believe it was at this point that I begun wishing on everything imaginable (11:11, shooting stars, pennies) that my son would decide that football was not for him. Day #4 ended with another 3 emails from the Team Mom (who the fuck keeps bringing Gatorade to practice, damn it?!), and a sigh of relief that we were free of football for three whole days.
Day #5, #6, #7 – So while we thought we were free of football over the weekend, my husband and I were inundated by emails from not only the Team Mom, but the coaches, and the head of the football organization, and numerous text message alerts. Sigh. My anxiety-level flow chart is starting to show a sharp upward spike.
Day #8, Practice, pads – Holy shit. What were there, like 87 pads that had to be stuck in separate little pockets into these tiny little pants that required to be shoehorned onto my son?! I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done if my husband wasn’t able to assist with the whole “pad” situation! Once again, I drop the boy off at practice and begin my run around the park, with my daughter strapped in the jogging stroller. I am getting used to the smirks and get a bit snarky as I wave to a few of the sideliners as I run past. Catching the last half hour of practice, I see that during the scrimmages, Jameson does not block or attempt to even hold his ground. Quite the opposite, actually. He takes several steps back to avoid being touched. On the way home from practice, I ask James what he thinks so far. He looks sad when he responds, “it’s okay, I just don’t like getting hit”. Poor little guy. I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t like to get hit either. That night, another email… I am beginning to wonder if Team Mom has a life.
Day #9, Practice, pads – Practice is cancelled, word brought to us via email from Team Mom, due to torrential downpours and lightning. Jameson does not even blink an eye at the thought of missing practice, and you could almost see him breathe a sigh of relief when we share the news.
Day #10, No practice – Another email from Team Mom, “tee hee, wouldn’t it be great if the boys could wear white pants to away games?!” Yep, that is really fucking special, and completely deserved interrupting my night away from all things football. And now I know that Team Mom has no life.
Day #9, Practice, pads – Today is Jameson’s little sister’s birthday, and we decided as a family, that the last thing that Mackenzie would want to do on her birthday is go watch James’ football practice. Instead, we have a great sit-down family dinner (of Mackenzie’s choosing), we open presents, eat cake, and enjoy each other’s company. Team Mom noticed that James was not there, however. I get an email later that night asking why Jameson wasn’t at practice.
Days #10, #11, #12 – And now we come to the conclusion of my post, where you, my dear readers, find out how manipulating, despicable, and horrible of a mother that I really am. Over the weekend, my husband attempted to work with James, throwing and catching the ball, giving him tips on how to block/take blows, the correct “football stance”, and how to stay on your feet. Me? I proceeded to become an earworm. I began whispering discouraging statements like “you can quit if you want to” or “not everyone is built to play every sport”. I nonchalantly told Jameson stories about my little brother deciding that “football wasn’t for him” after a few practices. I explained that you could love to watch a sport, throw a ball around in the backyard, and wear jerseys, without actually playing that sport. I boasted when James made a shot playing basketball on the driveway, and went on and on about how he had a real talent. At basketball. I worked on this boy. All. Weekend. Long. Until finally, finally Sunday night, James comes to me and says….
J – “I don’t think I want to play football anymore.”
Me – <blink, blink> “Really? Why not buddy?”
J – “Mom, I really don’t like getting hit. It hurts and I don’t like it.”
Me – <hands on my hips> “Are you sure? You really wanted to play last summer?”
J – <head down> “Yes, I am sure. I just don’t want my coach to be mad. Can you come with me to drop off my gear?”
Of course I would accompany him, but asked James if wouldn’t his father, standing at 6’4″, with broad shoulders, a strong, wide chest, and a penetrating gaze that would make anyone squirm in their seat be a bit more intimidating?
J -“Ha ha, no mom. No one is more intimidating than you!”
I might be able to compare Jameson’s tactics of getting what he wants to a CIA interrogator, but who do you think taught him?!