How to Play Real Football

This fall I’ve taken my kids to three college football games. One of the unintended consequences of this activity is that they think I don’t know a darn thing about how to play the game.

Take Saturday, for example. I take the kids to the park so we can play football. I divide everyone up into teams and hand the ball to my oldest kid. He gives me a quizzical look and hands the ball back to me.

“We can’t play yet,” he says.

“Why not?” I reply.

“Because we haven’t run out of the tunnel yet,” he says matter-of-factly.

Now it’s my turn to give him a quizzical look. “What are you talking about?”

“Before the game starts the players run out of the tunnel and you say what team you’re playing for.”

Now I get it. At the games I’ve taken them to, the teams run out of tunnels on the other side of the field. He wants to do the same thing.

“OK,” I say, “run out of the tunnel.

He and his brother run around the park and yell “Denver Broncos!” at the top of their lungs. They run back to me and I hand the ball to him.

“Hike the ball,” I said.

“We can’t Dad,” he said. “You haven’t run out of the tunnel yet.”

“I don’t need to—“

“All the teams run out of the tunnel,” he says. “Oh, and you’re the Indianapolis Colts.”

The Colts? I don’t want to be the Colts. I open my mouth to object but realize it could be worse. He could have asked me to be the Oakland Raiders.

So me and my daughter run around the field and let the world know we’re the Colts. When I get back to the ling of scrimmage the oldest hands me the ball.

“You start,” I tell him.

“No, Dad. You need to kick the ball to us.”


“They kick the ball off to start the game,” he says as tosses me the ball.

The kickoff. How could I forget that?

I walk back to the goal line. My boys back up. I kick the ball over their heads. Laughing, they both run after it.  My oldest picks up the ball and I wrestle him to the ground. He jumps up and gets ready to hike the ball to his brother.

“We’re going to get a touchdown!” he says before hiking the ball.

Let the game begin.

The Mixed Emotions of Parenthood

My boys are getting more fun as they age. Not that they weren’t fun last year or the year before that or at any other time in their life. It’s just that as they’ve become older, we’ve been able to do things and activities that were harder or impossible to do when they were younger. A couple months ago, they sat through and enjoyed a college football game. Now that it’s snowy and cold, they enjoy sledding. We have a good park for sledding across the street. The last three years every time I’ve attempted to take the two older boys (and Molly last year) sledding it’s gone something like this: they act excited about going when we leave the house, become terrified of sledding once we reach the park, won’t go down the hill unless they’re sitting on Dad’s lap, then complain about the cold after 10 minutes and want to go home.

Not this year. Sledding is (finally!) fun. I took the boys sledding with the usual trepidation that it was going to be a short trip. Instead, after one trip down the hill, they kept running to the top to go down again. The screamed with delight when I’d give them a push so they could go farther and faster. And when I was finally chilled to the bone an hour later, the boys didn’t want to leave. (I finally coaxed them away from the slopes with promises of big cups of hot chocolate.)

Back at home, the boys sat at the kitchen table, drank hot chocolate and told Marathon Girl about how much fun they had. As they talked, I realized that they aren’t little kids anymore. Kids, yes. Little kids, no. It seems like they’ve grown up overnight. They put their own dishes away after dinner. They don’t need me to help them get ready for bed. (Instead I supervise while getting the younger ones ready.) They can make their own beds and brush their teeth in the morning. And the oldest schools his dad on the Wii.

There’s a part of me that’s proud to watch them become more responsible and more independent. Another part of me, however, is a little sad that my two oldest boys aren’t the two small, cuddly boys that they’ve been since their birth. I know that part of being a parent is watching your kids grow up. As my kids age, new doors will open but others will close—sometimes forever.

I knew all this came with being a parent. However, no one told me all the mixed emotions I’d feel as it happens.