Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The hardest working muscle in the human body...

The last few weeks I have found myself dealing with something I wasn't ready for. My son started tackle football practice- and no, I know that would be hard enough for some moms, but that wasn't what caught me off guard. I was ready- I went through a lot of questions before letting him sign up. What are the risks? What are the benefits? Is he ready? Is he old enough to handle the responsibility? What if he gets hurt? Why does he want to play- does he want to play for himself or is someone pressuring him? That last one is a big one for me- we love football but I do not want him to play for anyone other than himself. We talked about it often and we talked about it thoroughly.

He's almost 13 and he is not the type of kid that just jumps into things. He has been talking about it for a while now, and I knew that he would not want to sign up until he felt ready- he just has that type of personality. So I have had some time to get used to the idea. I've done the research, read the articles about kids playing tackle- I am educated on concussions and injury etiquette, I have weighed the pros and cons and decided the experience could be incredibly rewarding- plus, he loves football. Aside from being active and gaining physical strength, I think he will respond positively to the team mentality. Developing a relationship with his teammates and his coaches is something I can see being very beneficial to him. I am always receptive to things that will help him grow as a person and will offer a way for him to build self confidence through his achievements.

He has been talking to some of his flag football teammates about the challenges of tackle football, and I have spoken with the handful of moms I know who have kids who play. We both know how tough the first season is. I have been talking to him for a few weeks about the conditioning, the drills, the running- basically the physicality of the sport. He is in average almost 13 year-old shape- he plays some sports and is relatively active, but we knew it would be a challenge.
I have a few cardinal rules in my house, and two of the most important are do what makes you happy and give 110%. I reiterated that to him on the days leading up to the first practice- just don't give up, go slow if you have to but don't give up. Give everything you have.

So the first day of practice came and he was stoked. Just a little nervous (compared to my nervous texts to friends that I might throw up). As I watched his teammates show up I was more than a little surprised at how old the kids looked to me, when in reality they are all within probably 9 months of his age. These kids looked big, more mature, and a lot of them already knew each other- probably 80% of them have played tackle before. Eek- I was a little intimidated, but my son wasn't so I didn't say a word.

I find my place off the field with the parents and sit and watch. It was tough- they ran more than I think my kid has ever run in his life. They did drills he has never done before, pushed him to his limits- and you know what? He never once gave up. Not once. He hit the wall, clambered over it, and kept trucking. By the end of practice he was mentally and physically exhausted. The next practice- same thing: he gave everything he had. The first practice with pads that they could tackle each other he got laid out and it shocked him- but he recovered and got right back in line. His coaches and teammates are completely amazing and encouraging, and I can actually see the change in him every time he walks off the field. Over the last few weeks I have watched him struggle and push through; get nervous/excited/intimidated and push through it.

So- ok, here is the part that I wasn't prepared for. Watching him do this- really give everything he has, I have seen him realize what is necessary to accomplish this goal of his. He realizes it is going to be harder than he had anticipated and it frustrates him, but he pushes through to the end. I don't really know how to explain how it feels- like I am watching a little piece of his childhood float away. (And that's ok- not easy, but a fact of life right? They have to grow up sometime.) It got to me- watching him these last few weeks I see a young man and I am hella proud (and yeah, a little teary eyed).

Parenting is the ultimate endurance test- the limitless strength training exercise that requires incredible conditioning for your heart. As a parent your heart swells, cracks, bends, breaks- - sometimes all at the same time. You have to be quick, agile, and ready to adapt. To watch your kids make and achieve their own goals is amazing- the feeling of pride is so immense it is almost indescribable. I am so proud of my kid, the Squid. By the time he is grown my heart will have run marathons- - triathlons- - probably taken 1st in a couple of Ironman's.

Since I have been so stressed out the last few weeks over all of this, and since I am a single mom and I needed a good laugh after trying to find all of the required equipment, straps, pants, pads, etc. I decided to turn to my (pretend) friends in the NFL for advice to get me through this tackle football business. (Pretend) NFL what-now, you ask? (This is of course inspired by two hilarious blogs- the feminist Ryan Gosling and Hey Girl! Check them out- I guarantee you will laugh.) Just making these made me laugh.

So here is my athletic support group...

Ok, I didn't include this last pic so A.J. Hawk (linebacker for the Green Bay Packers) could give me advice, but more so everyone can see how awesome he is. After this last season ended he cut his hair and donated it to wigs for kids. I love when guys do this (disclaimer: I love when anyone does this, not just guys). He has actually started a program with his wife called 'Hawk's Locks for Kids'. I have been growing my hair out for a while now (dye free, per the donation instructions) and I am totally looking into this when I am ready to lop it off. A.J. Hawk is way involved with kids and giving back to his community (just what I love to see in a football player). So huzzah to you A.J. Hawk.

Just a little update: I mentioned in an earlier post that we were taking up running, and a few people have asked me how that is going. Since the squid is in football practice he does most of his running there, but he does still go out with me from time to time. I am currently jogging about 2.5 miles in thirty minutes- and I love it. Now whenever I want to be lazy and not exercise, I think 'How are you going to encourage him to push and give everything he has while you sit on your butt?' - - It totally works.

So here we go- this is week #3 of practice, we have a scrimmage tomorrow, and the first game is next Friday... Go Sun Devils!


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