It's football season again, a favorite time of year for all of the men in my family. We've already made plans with our second son, who has just settled into his new place and lives about an hour away from us, for watching Notre Dame football games together. We're going to alternate weekends: one weekend at our house, where the flat screen T.V. is only 42 inches, but the cook has lots of experience and lots of recipes to choose from; and the next at his apartment, where the game day food may not be as elaborate--but the flat screen T.V. is 60 inches! (This man-sized T.V. was our gift to him when he earned his master's). So it's a win-win situation, especially since both T.V.'s are high def. By the way, how did we even enjoy football games back in those cave man days, when we had to watch them on a puny 19-inch set with little to no def?
The weird thing about this football season is that we will have no sons out there on the gridiron. Since 1994--when our two oldest signed up to play Pee Wee football--we've had at least one son (and usually, multiple sons) playing football at some level every fall. My husband, of course, signed up at the same time they did--to be an assistant coach for their team--and thus began a long and rewarding career of coaching our boys in football and lacrosse. But their high school had its sign-up/equipment hand-out meeting on Sunday night, and for the first time in ages, we didn't have to go.
Going to watch our boys' games has shaped our lives for the past 17 years, and we'll miss that. So excuse me if I get a little verklempt. It's hard to believe that, although we'll always be parents (empty nest or not), we'll never be "football parents" again. So many things will change! There won't be a jock strap or a sweaty, dirty practice jersey in sight at our house...we won't be tripping over size 11, 12, and 13 muddy cleats every time we walk in the door...we won't have to drive to remote towns hours away on rainy Friday nights...my husband won't have to tell people not to give him updates on the score of the Notre Dame game, on those Saturdays when our sons have a game and he's recording the ND game at home to watch later...we won't have to collect fees from parents, find volunteers to run the chain gang, host spaghetti suppers for hordes of hungry boys and their parents...I could go on. I know I sound like I'm complaining, but I'm really not. For the past 7 years, I gladly and willingly washed the Varsity uniforms for our sons' high school team, week in and week out. People thought I was nuts, but it was exactly the kind of behind-the-scenes grunt work that I enjoy--and in fact, one year when the coach told me he didn't want me to have to deal with the laundry anymore, I begged him to let me keep doing it. You must think I'm weird...and I probably am. But I really enjoyed my role as a "football mom."
Anyway, although all of the work that goes into being a "football parent" has given us a sense of purpose over the years and has brought great joy into our lives, I suppose there are some really positive aspects about seeing the end of that era. I no longer have to cringe at the sound of helmets crashing into shoulder pads (and occasionally, helmets); after 17 years of listening to it, I never got used to the sound of a good, solid hit. I won't miss worrying about concussions and injuries! My husband won't have to record Notre Dame games anymore; he should be able to watch the Irish play in "real time" every weekend. And without a football schedule here to tie us down, we may even get out to South Bend more often to see our beloved Irish play on their own turf. Again, my husband and I are coming to terms with the bittersweet ending of a really great time in our lives; but as usual, there is lots of sweet mixed in with the bitter!
(Painting by--you guessed it--Norman Rockwell. His renderings of little boys give me a little lump in my throat.)