A Chicago mom’s football failure

I thought I was so smart. That was my first mistake.

When the subject of football first arose between my husband and me (about ten minutes after our nearly 11-pound newborn made his world debut), I was adamant that no child of mine would ever play. Convinced that this insidious sport would seduce my future Nobel Prize Winner away from classical music, quantum physics and global service, I decided Danny’s sport of choice would be track. After all, my dad and brothers were phenomenal runners. Surely the old Navickas genes would kick in and ensure no traumatic brain injury sport could ever float our way.

Ten years later, I found myself in a sweaty Catholic school gym collecting ill-fitting equipment and cursing my husband. Danny, as it turns out, runs like he has a piano on his back. Track would never be the obvious choice.

But the kid wanted to play football with his whole heart. So I caved.

Plan B was immediately put into play. The daily practice sessions lasting hours and hours would certainly deter the kid who makes his brothers fetch his shoes each morning. There was no way Danny would be willing to stick out the grueling schedule and all the running. There was so much running. I smiled like the Grinch and waited for the inevitable white towel to be thrown.

Instead? My kid dug in.

I had forgotten the precedent set over the last ten years.

When I wanted the boys to be strong swimmers, there were two-hour practices, five days a week. Quitting was never an option.

When music entered our lives, I endured years of epic arguments and meltdowns, all so we could get to the place where daily piano practice was a non-negotiable.

I totally effed myself. I had been making the kids do unpleasant and hard things from day one so they could understand the value of effort and results.

What in the name of all that is holy was I thinking??

As Danny’s football team marched towards the play-offs, I clung to the belief that as a fifth grader with limited playing time, he would become disenfranchised and bored. I sat through icy cold games in the bleachers where Danny would only get in for a snap or two.

Had I been Danny, I would have quit the first week of practice. But Danny saw it all the way through. And wouldn’t you know? Of course the fricking team won the whole damn championship.

God hates me. I think it’s all my swearing.

There is part of me that is so incredibly proud to have a child with unparalleled stubbornness in proving his mother wrong. Danny has always been full of grit of heart. Yet, there is another part of me that is praying the kid finally finds his legs and loses that piano on his back, so we can seriously re-visit the old track idea.

In the meantime, my husband hung a Mt. Carmel football banner above Danny’s bed.

Sometimes, I feel like I am just a passenger along for the ride.

But what a glorious ride it has been.

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