Have you ever tried to put a football uniform on a lump of an 8-year-old boy? A crying lump of an 8-year-old boy? It’s not very fun, nor is it very easy.
After telling me he’d hurt his ankle on Sunday and couldn’t go to his football game, my son came home from school on Tuesday (the next practice) with a bad headache. That time, I believed him. I mean, this kid would never willingly lie down in bed in the afternoon and take a nap if he wasn’t really feeling bad – not even to try to fool his mother. So since school started, he sometime decided he didn’t like football as much as he had loved it the first couple of weeks.
Last night, before bed, I sat him down for a long talk. I told him that football was a team sport, that his whole team was counting on him and he couldn’t let them down. And since he’d now missed 2 practices, I reminded him that it was also dangerous, and he needed to go to practice so he’d know what he was doing so hopefully he wouldn’t get hurt during the games. And that this weekend his huge team would be broken into taxi and pee wee teams so his team would have fewer players and he’d get a lot more playing time in the game (with 26 players, he was spending a lot of time on the sidelines during the games, except, of course, for the game Sunday which he missed which was also a smaller group of kids so he would have had a lot of play time, not to mention they won 26-0).
So I told him he had to think about it and decide if he wanted to play or not. If he decided he wanted to play, he had to go to his games and practices, always. He had to either be all in or out. No middle ground. I even asked him if he’d gotten hurt, if he was scared, if someone was being mean to him, you know, all of the normal “mom” questions. He said nothing like that was going on. And that he did want to play. Then I told him that he had to go to sleep, no games tonight, no coming in and out of my room or whispering to his sister or any other nonsense because I had a call to a client I had to make and could not have interruptions.
I left his room and called my client. After finally getting in touch with her, we ended up rescheduling the call. So I made another, personal call that I needed to make. And stayed on the phone for a long time.
This morning, after I woke him up, he came into my room and told me he had been up really late because he was going to talk to me after I got off the phone but I was on the phone too late. (WOW – he actually listened to me and followed my instructions!) He told me he wanted to talk to me because he didn’t like football and didn’t want to play – he said it was boring. I told him he had to gear up this afternoon and go to practice and tell the coach that he wanted to quit the team, that I would support him but he had to tell him.
Now, my son has no problem telling me anything I don’t want to hear (not that I didn’t want to hear that) but he doesn’t like telling other people anything that may not be copacetic. And since this kid LOVES sports – he usually gets mad at me if we’re literally 1 minute late to a practice or game, and for the first two weeks of football practice (before school started, when it was FIVE days a week) he was geared up and ready to go at 2, for a 5pm practice, I accepted that it wasn’t his sport and was willing to let him quit. Mind you, this was the day after I ordered his new jersey with his name on it.
So this afternoon, he didn’t want to gear up, didn’t want to go to practice. I held firm, but in the end didn’t make him gear up, just got all of his gear together to take with us to turn in. He purposefully left the house without shoes – told me he had no intention of talking to the coach, I had to do that. At that point, with his mood, I wasn’t going to argue, although I really didn’t want to be the one to do it, since that particular coach kind of intimidates me. Anyhow, we went to the field and I left the kids in the car and went and told the coach that I’d had a long talk with my son and he didn’t want to play anymore. The coach asked if he was in the car; I said he was. We walked over to the car and the coach opened my son’s door and told him that it was a team sport, his team was depending on him, that he wasn’t going to let him quit. He said he’d made a commitment when he’d joined the team, and he had to fulfill his commitment – that at the end of the season if he still didn’t want to play, he didn’t have to play again next year, but he couldn’t quit this season. And he told him that one of the other players had gone up to JV (the next age bracket) and he needed him on the team because he was a really good player. So then the coach told him to gear up and come practice. I told the coach we had to go home to get his cleats but we’d be back.
We got home and my son didn’t say a word. He came in the house, I made him put on his cup and he sat on the couch and cried as he did. I felt so bad for him. I then had to dress him, which is much easier with a squirming baby than trying to put tight, football pants with lots of pads over short, tight shorts with pads and pull them up. His foot got stuck in the lining of the pants at one point, yet he still made no effort to help me. He was still sitting there, defeated, crying. Did I mention that hurt my heart? Anyhow, I got him ready and he came out to the car and we went to practice, now late. He walked as slow as I’ve ever seen him walk across the field, in no hurry to reach his team. And he practiced. After practice, he seemed to be in a better mood, but still very quiet and not happy.
I agree with the coach. My personal ethic is that if you sign up to do something, you do it, to the best of your ability. You don’t quit and let people down. Your word is the most valuable thing you have – if you do something to render it worthless, it is impossible to fully get your credibility back. And yes, he needs to learn that ethic.
That said, my son is also not a quitter and normally gives every sport his all – he is a pure Type A personality. He wants to excel at everything he does. He’s played soccer, hockey, baseball and taken karate. He’s given each sport his all and tries his hardest – and usually does excel at them – he’s just naturally athletic (he certainly doesn’t get that from his mother!) Anyhow, he’d also never wanted to play football before. The coach’s wife asked in the summer if he wanted to play, he said he didn’t. Later in the summer she messaged me saying her husband wanted him on the team, so I told her I’d ask him if he wanted to play, but I’d asked him a few times and he’d had no interest. That time he said yes. When signing him up, I asked him a few times if he was sure he wanted to play, instead of playing soccer. He said he did. Then he asked if he could just try it. I said yes. So the first week I kept asking if he liked it and he really did.
I definitely have mixed feelings on tonight. I feel very bad for my son, but it’s a good lesson to learn, an important lesson. And if he’d wanted to quit the first week or two, I would have made sure he was off the team. But he’s into the season now. I just hope he has a lot of play time on Sunday in his game, and he sees how much he likes it, or it will be a long season. Some days are harder than others to be a mom.
Live, love, laugh…it’s what makes it worthwhile!