I have these daydreams of watching my son at the state track meet. The crowd behind him, the thunder clap commencing as he makes his way down the runway. He jumps, soars, and the crowd explodes. A new state record. A state champion. I wrestle with the imaginary decision of sending him on the world circuit or just sending him off to college. Who will manage him? Who will coach him? Will I, as his mother, get a complimentary ticket to the Olympics?
My son is playing catch in the backyard. A little father-son bonding time. After awhile, the catches he is making are a little riskier. They take more effort, more coordination, more talent. I start contemplating whether his skill set is better suited for offense or defense on the football field. The pride swells on the inside of me as I picture him catching the winning touchdown. “That’s my son!” I scream. Everyone congratulates me.
Currently, it is basketball season. He has a jersey, a coach, and a schedule. His dad was a good ball player. His uncle is a basketball coach. His mom is tall. My son has all the makings to be the next Lebron. Clearly.
On Monday, I took my son to basketball practice. He messed around with his pockets. He had one shoe untied. He goofed around with his friends when the coach wasn’t looking. He made a basket. He missed, like twenty-two baskets. When it was his turn to sit out of the scrimmage, he asked to sit by his mom.
My dream of an All-Star came in pretty fuzzy that night.
Yet, that night, we ate popsicles and read The Giving Tree. He dilly-dallied for what seemed like an eternity before brushing his teeth and putting on his jammies. In his night shirt and undies, he came back out into the living room and gave his daddy and me a hug. When I told him I loved him, he said, “I love you more.” And I remembered, he is seven.
He loves things that are odd to me. Things like Pokemon, Ninjago, and Super Mario. He dreams about video games. He gets grounded from video games.
Playing with friends is important to him. In fact, he does his homework on the bus so he can play as soon as he gets home. “How was school?” I ask, only to hear all about the friends he sat with at lunch and played with at recess.
Play. He is seven.
When he smiles, I can see that his eight missing teeth are finally growing back. Last time we saw Grandma, he was about to her shoulder. When I asked him about his math homework, he explained how he answered the question 32+18. How did this boy, my son, grow up so big, so smart, so quickly?
It was as if it were yesterday he were born. That little wrinkly baby, I vowed to love him forever. Whatever he wanted to be, I would be his biggest fan.
At basketball practice, I wasn’t the only parent there (the boys are seven, we can’t exactly leave). We were all inserting instruction to our sons, “Hands up!” “Find your man!” “Listen!!!” As I looked around the crowded gym, I thought, what are we doing here? What is our purpose for second grade basketball?
As a child, I had dreams of going to the Olympics (the year 2000, specifically). I had dreams of competing in college. Of setting new records. Of winning championships. Some came true. Some didn’t. But those were my dreams.
The older I’ve gotten, the more headlines I’ve read of the ‘All-Star Gone Too Soon.’ Once sport was out of the All-Star’s life, he couldn’t adjust, he couldn’t identify, nor could he find purpose in living without sport. Those who seemingly have all the glory, all the accomplishments, all the victory, really have very little at all. Oh, if only they could see they had more to offer the world. To offer themselves.
That is not the dream I have for my son.
So if my son doesn’t go Pro, I hope he knows he is still worth something.
If my son doesn’t go Pro, I hope he has the confidence to be one of the rest of us.
If my son doesn’t go Pro, I hope he has the courage to chase after new dreams.
In fact, when my son doesn’t become a professional athlete, when he doesn’t live out my dreams of athletic stardom, I hope he knows he can come home, sit by his momma and share a story or two. I hope he knows he is loved more for who he is than for what he is.
May I, as his mother, remember my job is not to feed him dreams, rather to help him cultivate his own.
May I remember to pretend I care which Pokemon is the strongest, or which Ninja is the chosen one.
May I remember to save him the empty egg carton so he can make another messy invention in my basement.
May I remember that my job as his mom, is to say, “I love you more.” Especially, on those days he spills red Gatorade on my brand new rug.
My son isn’t a Pro.
He is seven… seventeen… thirty-seven… He is all I dreamed he’d be.
To all my kids, “I love you more!”