Wishing Football Season Was Already In The Rearview Mirror

It’s an early Monday morning and I’m driving my seven-year old son to his first day of Football Camp. I keep stealing glances of him in the rearview mirror, each time catching his sweet smile with the missing front tooth as he stares out his window. His legs are doing the little kick thing they do when he’s happy or excited about something. This vision confirms our recent decision to start a new chapter in our lives. After one year of homeschooling him and his sister, we decided while they were doing exceptionally well academically they were missing out on social interaction and extracurricular activities.

Little Quarter BackI bring the car to a stop at the light and steal one more glance at my son. “So, are you excited about your first day of Football Camp?” There’s a slight pause no more than seconds, but in those seconds my mind runs the gamut of all the fears and insecurities he may be feeling. I don’t know how I do it, but just as quickly I mentally line up my response to each and every doubt he may express. I take a deep breath and just as I’m about to press my foot to the accelerator I hear him say, “Are you kidding? I’ve waited my whole life for this!” My body relaxes with relief and I’m suddenly lost in visions of my little guy grinning as he catches the ball just like we practiced at the park last weekend, high-fiving his new buddies on the field. I’m startled out of my fantasy by the honking of the impatient driver behind me and quickly get back to reality.

It’s a reality I’m not quite ready to face on several levels though I’m not quite sure why. I love football! I want my son to be around other kids his age. I want him to learn what it’s like to be part of a team. Of course, I worry about him getting injured, but that’s not what is nagging at my subconscious. At the end of week one of camp, I’m hit with the answer in neon lights as only a seven-year old can present. Again, I’m seeing him in the rearview mirror keeping my eyes between him and the road ahead almost like an old VHS tape…the image skipping though you can still focus on it. He’s struggling internally with something and I’m holding my breath once more hoping he finds a way to express himself to me…not wanting to rush him but needing him to assuage my fears.

“Mommy?” I compose myself and respond, “Yes, honey?” My heart skips a beat when he softly says, “I’m considering not going back to football camp next week.” Earlier this week he said he’s waited his whole life for this. He’s been named player of the day almost every day this week. All he talks about are drills and passes, his favorite coach and some boy named Jordy. He’s been in heaven all week wanting to call his dad the minute he gets in the car to give him a full report. I’m afraid to ask why but do it anyway. “It’s just that I hear some bad words, and I’m not sure I should keep going. I love going, but I know I’m not supposed to say bad words.”A Little Houston Football

I review what I’ve seen all week when I’ve arrived a few minutes early to catch him in action. I see him making an interception and the look of shock and pride on his face in that very moment mirroring the same look on my own face as I peer through the fence. I see him as his teammates congratulate him. I see his little face as he catches a glimpse of me and smiles from ear to ear. How do I respond? He’s right. I don’t want him around that kind of language even if I know it’s part of the world of sports. I’m angry that grown men can’t control their potty mouths when it comes to sports and especially around children. Yet, I also know I can’t shield him from these things forever and don’t believe it’s fair for me to hold him back from something he truly enjoys.

“You know what buddy? I know you love football and you love camp. You’re right about the bad language. It’s not something I approve of and not something I want you repeating. I don’t believe that kind of language is necessary. Unfortunately, it is unavoidable sometimes. As long as you know it’s wrong, I’m okay with you going back to camp next week.”

As I look in the rearview mirror once more, I see my sweet innocent little boy coming to terms with a reality that is new for both of us. He gives me another toothless smile, and I can’t help but wish we could fast forward past these uncomfortable realities and leave them in the rearview mirror once and for all.

Have you been in a similar situation with your child? How have you handled it?

24 thoughts on “Wishing Football Season Was Already In The Rearview Mirror

  1. Awww what a great little guy! I think sports are so important when kids are teenagers. It keeps them busy and being part of a team is really beneficial. I think you both did well handling the situation.

  2. Beyond adorable! My kids are now trying to come up with timelines of when it’s okay to use bad words. So, the talks continue….

    1. Smarter than some adults I come across for sure! I’m just hoping he continues down the path of being uncomfortable around something he knows is wrong and still comfortable enough to share it with his mommy.

  3. First of all, your son is so super adorable! I know where you’re coming from. My son is very sensitive to what is “right” and “wrong” and when he started kindergarten last year he often got angry at the kids who misbehaved. We talked about it, much like you did, and while he still doesn’t like it, he’s learned to deal with it and to see that everyone does things that are wrong sometimes, even at school. Great story. Good luck with school this year. I know it’ll be an adjustment, but it will all work out.

    1. Ha! Thank you. I was proud of him for getting that it was wrong and something I wouldn’t approve of, but mostly for expressing himself to me. Your son sounds much like my children. At the movie theater recently, they were both so upset by people talking on their phones, parents allowing their children to run up and down the aisles, etc. I guess that means we are teaching good manners! Thanks for the well wishes. It will definitely be an adjustment for all of us, but we are looking forward to it!

    1. Anita, thank you for your comment. That is exactly what I keep telling myself. He will learn what NOT to do as long as I continue to use these moments as life lessons. It is an inevitable reality in the world of sports. I guess it just hit me harder and sooner than I anticipated. I’ll definitely head over and check out your post. Sounds helpful!

  4. Regarding the language … I totally support your efforts to say it’s an absolute no-go with your kids. I took a little different tact, knowing what my childhood was like. It’s everywhere, not just in sports, but on the playground and after school when kids congregate. What I told my kids as they got to 3rd or 4th grade was that they were about to be exposed to “language” and they may be tempted to match their peers and start using the language themselves. I hoped they didn’t. I hoped they would be better than that. But knowing what childhood is like and based on my own experience, I told them this … if they go down that path, the language needs to be limited to certain environments. When they’re out there playing sports, on the playground, when they’re with their friends. But never in front of their teachers, their parents, grandparents. Never at home. Never, never, never.
    As for youth sports. Good luck. My kids are now exiting youth sports. One son is going away to college this year, the other will be a junior in high school with only a year or two of soccer left. After a dozen years of coaching and being very involved, I’m thrilled that my days of youth sports are finally nearing an end. There are a lot of crazy things that go on with youth sports. Not just the language. Hopefully, you and your kids will find a way to navigate all of those issues and they’ll keep playing sports they love because even with all of those issues, I do believe kids should play sports and be exposed to the dynamics the sports offer.

    1. “What I told my kids as they got to 3rd or 4th grade was that they were about to be exposed to “language” and they may be tempted to match their peers and start using the language themselves. I hoped they didn’t. I hoped they would be better than that.”

      I love this. I too hope my children will be better than that because while this language is definitely everywhere, I don’t truly understand the need for it. It’s not that I never use it, but some people seem to know no other way to express themselves. Adults using that language around other adults is one thing. Adults using that language around children is unacceptable to me. I want these coaches to teach my kid the amazing sport that is football not how to be a little boy with the mouth of a sailor.

      As for youth sports, we haven’t been exposed to it truly until now. We homeschooled because of our disappointment in the school they were attending, but we strongly feel it is important for our children to be involved socially and in extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, where we lived we didn’t have those resources for homeschooling parents. I’m thrilled my children will have that this year, and to see them excited about what’s in store for them warms my heart. However, I tread lightly and completely aware that this new chapter will expose all of us to realities we may not like, both in sports and otherwise.

      Thank you for your input! I appreciate your comment and hope you’ll share your experienced two cents as we continue our journey!

      1. The adults doing it is inexcusable. When I was a kid, I never heard adults swear except when my dad was working on the car. 🙂 That’s one of the great disappointments of modern life in America. The lack of self-control and awareness in adults.

  5. This is the sweetest story and of course so well written! You always keep me to the end! Whether you ever turn this into a book about Conversations With A Seven Year Old or just a keepsake for your sweet son and whoever he marries someday (what a treasure!!) I love these stories! (side note…. I really see a book here!) 😉

    1. Thank you Diane. I hadn’t thought about a collection of these conversations I have with my little guy. They are enlightening! Would be fun to have them all in one book for him to read one day. 🙂

    1. I was very proud of him for knowing the words are wrong and for telling me about it. It had to be hard for him to express thinking I might agree to his not going back to camp because of the language. Definitely a new chapter for us! Yikes!

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