I never tied ribbons or got to help pick out prom dresses. Much of my life as a parent has been spent stuffing football pads and tying Nike, Reebok and Adidas football cleets.
Those of you who know me know I have had the responsibility of trying to raise three sons. To what extent I have been successful probably remains to be seen. I do know that my life as a parent is about to dramatically change.
In one form or another I have participated in public school football for 15 years. That's right, one, two or all three of my boys have played football every year for the last 15 years. My oldest son who turned 25 this past summer, started playing Mighty Mite Football in our community the first year it was offered. He was 10 years old and in the fifth grade.
Back then only fifth- and sixth-graders were allowed to play. The program quickly expanded, and by the time his younger brothers reached the third grade they were offering Mighty Mite Football to third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders.
Many years I had three different boys on three different teams, practicing at three different times and playing games in three different towns. And yes, Hillary, I can tell you from experience, it does take a village to raise a child.
My youngest son is senior at Salem (Ark.) High School this fall. A couple of weeks ago his mother (me) absolutely stood in awe in the middle of the kitchen as this tall, handsome young man stood across the room from me preparing one morning for the first day of his last year of school. He will also be playing his last year of public school football. He dreams of going on to college and being able to play somewhere or maybe receiving a degree in physical education and teaching and coaching other young men the fine art of playing football.
There have been injuries, many minor, some serious, in my 15-year career as a football mom. I can honestly say none of them were life threatening.
The game has taught my children teamwork, endurance and character. The most important is probably character.
Learning to work as a team, enduring the hardship of practice and workouts are very important, but conducting oneself responsibly, stepping up when needed, backing down when appropriate, is a sign of character and will stick with these athletes the rest of their lives.
I turned my head the other morning when that young man and I met in the family kitchen because I didn't want him to see the tears.
"Mom, what do you want me to do about these senior pictures?" he asked, finally bringing me back to reality.
You would think after going through this twice before I would have a better grip on sending this young man out into the world. I understand that I am not the first mother in history to send her baby out into the world.
My life is about to change.
Back to this football thing ... the Thayer Bobcats and the Salem Greyhounds will step onto the field about 7:30 p.m. Sept. 6 at Greyhound Field in Salem. As an ardent observer of both teams, I can tell you it will probably be a pretty good game.
Load up the family, grandma and grandpa and bring them on down to Salem for a summer's night full of fun and football.