This weekend, my son's going off to the Super Bowl with his dad - my ex husband - who's not historically been a sports-fan. It's a nice father-son moment for them. When my almost-ten year old passionately yells at fouls the referee calls against The Steelers, his dad will marvel at how much his son has picked up... from my fiance, an avid Steelers fan since childhood. It's one of those reality checks for me, that with my divorce, my children's lives are not as shattered and as broken as I feared they would be when that decision was made, almost four years ago.
When Jaden was seven, he started showing interest in football. As I knew nothing about the game, I asked a sporty guy I was seeing at the time, for tips on teaching him myself. Every day after school we'd practice in the backyard, the two of us, running football drills and plays, while my daughter, Eliana, just 5, twirled and danced around us doing ballet... of course. I felt pretty cool: I was becoming the mom-who-could-be-dad, hurling a beautiful spiral through the air, but who couldn't catch for beans for fear of breaking a nail - which always happened, by the way. Jaden would laugh and watch me curse under my breath, hopping around squeezing my finger, trying to pretend it was no biggie.
He outgrew me as his coach in a short span, and I put him in Little League where he was a natural amongst his peers: a strong arm, a fast runner, and good with plays. He became the darling of the team's coach, Peter Berg, the creator of the iconic football movie and TV show, 'Friday Night Lights'... You can imagine the competitiveness and drive to win on that field: it was next level coaching, and Jaden loved it.
I'd never watched a game before in my life, so I knew that I'd have to educate myself right quick to the rules of NFL football, seeing as Jaden was "planning on becoming a quarterback star" in that league! I sat through the first quarter of a game mid-way through football season, by myself, and I almost burst into tears, overwhelmed with the verbiage: "Third down conversion? Ten-yard penalty? QB rating? Unnecessary roughness? Three/four defense? Blitzing the corners?" And I promptly switched channels to soothing reruns of Top Chef to relieve my rising hysteria. At the kids' school, Rodney Peete, the legendary quarterback's son was in my daughter's class. I told his wife, actress and avid-football fan Holly Robinson, of my dilemma. She knew us ladies (or moms of boys trying to decipher the game) were out there. She wrote a book for us called, "Get your own damn beer! I'm watching the game." I spent the next weekends curled up on the couch, like a total geek, looking from screen to index page in the book, figuring out referee calls, players' positions, defense/ offense language, etc... I felt like I was back in college cramming. I sat triumphantly with Jaden for 2007 Super Bowl with the Colts and Bears, with him looking expectantly at me. I did my best, but I eventually had to pull out my trusty manual/ book. As soon as he saw that, his face fell, crestfallen, like, "Mom needs a cheat-sheet. Mom's fronting. Mom's got no game." He smiled at me generously, and said, "It's Ok, Mom. I just want to watch, anyway." We sat together 'til Half-Time, then he ran outside and played with his action figures. It's just not that fun when you don't know what's going on...
Cut to a few years later: my fiance, sitting on the couch with Jaden watching the AFC and the NFC, with the two of them screaming their a#@es off, yelling at the screen and debating ref calls. My fiance knows players' histories, their strengths, their backgrounds and Jaden is his worthy student. This is stuff I couldn't learn in any book, because it's years of passionate and dedicated football television viewing.
I think the reason, I worked so much at the football thing with my son was because I didn't want him to miss out, and the divorce made me feel guilty enough that he wasn't getting the day-to-day of having a dad living at home, other boys had. I wanted to balance the touchy feely-ness of mothering with the rough-and-tumble and that makes up a boys' DNA. I did my best back then, I like that I stretched myself out of my comfort zone. And meeting a man I fell in love with for the right reasons, who's good to my children, and who happens to be a sports buff too... well, that's a pretty great bonus! I'm also happy what he's picked up with his soon-to-be step-dad is something he can share with his other dad - it's something that helps bring them together, too. A seamless twist of events reminding you everything falls into place... Go Steelers!!!