This time last year, I was scared out of my mind. I was scared of youth football, and the fact that my then 13-year-old would be playing in a fairly tough youth league for the first time, for a fairly tough team (“OMG, you’re putting him on the Newburgh team, why not sign him up for INSERT SUBURBAN TOWN NAME HERE?”) I was scared of the unknown, scared of injuries, scared of the coaches, scared of starting all over again. So what did I do? I blogged about it, of course.
And now here I am a year later, no longer a Rookie football mom. My kid enjoyed every minute of his year with the Goldbacks Youth Football League team, and after the initial horror of the first scrimmage (“but the coach is yelling at my son!” – “Welcome to Football, Ma’am, the ballet tryouts are down the road”), it all started clicking. Christian loved the game, loved the players, loved every minute of football season. He played both offense and defense and pretty much never sat down. He played through cracked ribs, a broken finger, and a broken nose. Oh wait, the nose might have been from basketball, I get mixed up.
And now, Christian is on the Freshman Football team for his high school, Don Bosco Prep. I’m not allowed to stay for practices (it could be worse, one of the moms can’t stay for games, her son thinks she might be bad luck). I know the program is very, very rigorous, and he could eat a whole tray of lasagna when he’s done. I know that going from crew to football to running up and down the court for basketball from December until now has made him comfortable with wind sprints. I know there are 3 – 4 teams within Freshman Football (first team, second team, etc) and my son will not make first team. Those kids are playing at a different level (they have reporters call them when they signed with DBP, it made MaxPreps). My son will be happy to make third team, giddy to make second team.
“Isn’t this all a big waste of your time?” said a non-football DBP mom to me recently, “spending all of this time and all of this money and your son may not even play in a football game?” I just smiled sweetly. How can I explain?
Let us review what it really means to Count Your Blessings. How do I explain to this Mom that I feel blessed to have children -- much less kids who can play sports? That I am thankful my kids have arms and legs -- much less that they can finish wind sprints? That I am thankful my kids love sports -- and don’t sit around doing video games all day? That I am thankful my kids have fully functioning brains -- much less the fact that my kid memorized over 100 plays last year without a playbook?
I guess I should rewind a big and give a brief overview of where this whole “Count your Blessings” thing came from. I was raised by parents who suffered a lot of hardships and saw a lot of death even at a young age. My father was a little boy during WWII in the Philippines and saw his father taken away to a POW camp because he wouldn’t give the Japanese soldiers the locations of the US soldiers. He watched the Japanese soldiers burn his home down. My father went from being a prominent doctor’s son to being homeless. His playground was a battlefield. He looked up and saw WWII plane dogfights overhead. He looked down and saw the Japanese soldiers pack families into a house, throw gasoline on it and torch it. That’s how my father learned to run for his life. He was 8 year old.
My mother was raised by parents whose parents had the deep pain of the Irish potato famine running through their veins. She had three siblings, they all died in childhood. One baby boy, Michael, died as a newborn in the hospital. A nurse was swabbing his throat with cotton and accidentally choked him, causing his death. Her beloved sister Janie died at the age of 6 from childhood mumps, something we know vaccinate our kids for. (“Mom, they are saying this vaccine can cause Autism.” “That’s wonderful, dear. I would much rather have an autistic grandson than a dead grandson.”) Worst of all, her younger brother, Jimmy, died at age 16 in a tragic car accident.
The legacy of tragedy runs deep. So when you are raised by parents with that kind of background, you don’t sweat the small stuff. How do you complain about something as stupid as the fact that your forehead broke out in pimples the day before Prom when you know your grandfather suffered for years in a concentration camp, then crawled home when the war was over so he could die in his wife’s arms? Short answer: you don’t.
Back to the mom I am smiling at sweetly, who asks me how I can bear the fact that I am spending time and money on Football when my kid will not be a starter. How do I explain to her: Wake up! Our kids are healthy! Our kids are athletic. Our kids are smart. Who are we to impose our stupid grown-up ideas of Cost-Value-Ratio on them.
Most importantly, how do I explain to this non-football mom that my kid just loves the game? He is happy to be on the team and go to practices. He has less expectations than I do. He has made 52 friends. By the end of the season, they will have created a brotherhood. They will watch out for each other and high five each other for years to come. And I will do my part, I have been and will continue to fundraise. We will be at every game and I will cheer wildly and take photographs regardless of who is on the field.
In the imminent words of Coach Brad, who made me cry the first time I heard him yell at my kid (“Mrs. Lo, it’s when the coach doesn’t yell at your kid, because he doesn’t care if your kid gets better, that you have to worry”), and who I know consider to be a friend and mentor: “In the end, football is a game. It is the greatest game in the world, but it is a game. No matter how well we coach and how hard your kids play, the Good Lord is going to end our season the way he sees fit.”
Testify, Coach, Testify.
Off to the DBP Football Kickoff, Walkathon, Mass, and Barbecue today. That’s how we roll. Have a great day, everyone, remember to TRULY count your blessings, and GO IRONMEN!!! <3 Mrs. Lo
For more of the Mrs. Lo Blog, go to www.LoBiondoPage.Blogspot.com