The big kid, football & playing nice

I could see my husband getting agitated.

The big kid



We were at a pre-season football jamboree (mini-games against multiple schools), and my oldest son was phoning it in. Danny’s tackles were half-hearted and he was not hitting as hard as we knew he could. My sixth grader has always been a bruiser. At seven years old, he could carry two cases of bottled water into the house. By eight, he was helping move furniture. He’s knocked me over countless times simply trying to give a hug.


It is understandable that my husband was confused. I had my own suspicions.


From the time his baby brother arrived home from the hospital when Danny was only fifteen months old, my son faced a constant barrage of warnings:


Be careful of those smaller than you!


Be gentle!


You don’t know your own strength!


Keep your hands off smaller kids!


I lived in fear that my super-sized son would break a friend’s arm by merely engaging in horseplay. Rule No. 1 in the neighborhood is Thou Shalt Not Break Another Mom’s Child.  Because of this powerful message, the only person allowed to wrestle Danny was my husband.  Joe cried “uncle” when Danny was but nine, citing a sore shoulder and the fact that “It’s like wrestling a full grown-a$$ man.”


Despite my plans to avoid football at all costs, Danny pressed hard to play the sport. It took some time to realize why.


Danny wanted to wrestle.


He had been denied years of physicality and rough-housing. Now was the time to finally have the fun he missed.


Yet a lifetime of motherly counsel was now destroying his game. He would gently swat away smaller players or push them just far enough. My husband mumbled about “having no intensity” and “playing without heart.” Still outweighing most kids by 60 pounds, I was thankful Danny chose moderation.


Then another team marched onto the field. Different players. Bigger kids. Danny smiled like The Cheshire cat and got down to the business of manhandling children his own size. He demonstrated his strength and went all-out against kids who were bigger than him. One of the assistant coaches smiled as we headed to the parking lot.


“Danny certainly picked up his game that round!”


Joe and I beamed. My husband was happy to know his son could play decent football.


I, on the other hand, was happy to know that my son was decent.

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