My son D., who’s 16, had his last regular-season football game yesterday. Big game: they were playing for the Knights of Columbus Cup, a trophy representing a rivalry between two high schools that goes back to 1963.
After the first quarter, it was clear we were going to win. It was 20-0. The other team had lost a significant number of seniors and was 0-7 so far for the year.
I was sitting on the old wooden bleachers behind an older couple and a little boy who was about four. He sat on their laps, talking the whole time. They asked how his Halloween was (Did you like being a dragon? Did you like getting all that candy?). The grandmother opened a Ziploc of candy corn and M&Ms, and he had a few pieces. He showed them the different features of the toy airplane in his hands, and they listened with great interest as he opened the little doors and showed them a man inside.
I scanned the field for #60. There was my little kid, almost 6’ tall, getting in formation, blocking, making holes for the running backs, protecting his quarterback.
How did this happen? How is it that D. was down there, and not up in the stands thinking about Halloween and toy airplanes with me? D. must have asked me a thousand times to play with his Thomas the Tank Engine set. A hundred times to have Nerf gun battles. Play Legos with me, Mommy. Did I say yes enough?
If I asked him that question now, he’d probably say, Not really. D. is a free spirit, he’s about play. He got a 95 on his very first book report in second grade because he refused to strap on a tie (I don’t like ties!” he said.) He preferred to take the 5-point hit. Through most of grade school, he read every other page to make books go faster. I, on the other hand, was always about being responsible. You wear a tie if the teacher tells you to wear a tie. You read every page because you are supposed to.
He’s probably having a lot more fun in high school than I did.
But his toy airplanes were long ago sold at yard sales or given away to charity. So now, when D. is not playing football or in school, he spends his afternoons and evenings behind his closed bedroom door. He is Skyping with his girlfriend, playing Minecraft with his buddies, watching YouTube videos and reruns of Breaking Bad. (I tell him, I’m so glad you are learning how to make crystal meth! What a good life skill!)
The other day, I went in to talk to him, and he was clearly in the middle of something important, one of these compelling activities. But I had to ask him about practice and what time he needed to be picked up the next day. After a minute or two of me talking, he started laughing.
“Why are you laughing?” I said.
He pointed to his computer monitor, where I could see his girlfriend was on Skype. “She’s talking to me, and you’re talking to me, and I’m trying to listen to you, but it’s hard to do both.…”
“Ahh,” I said. “Well, which one of us is saying something more interesting?” I smiled.
But then I turned around, and went out into the hallway. I didn’t wait for him to respond. I knew the answer already.