Fall is my favorite season. Along with the just-turning foliage comes the return of my preferred spectator sport – Longhorn football. My passion stems from the Friday Night Lights elements of my upbringing and the four years I spent in Austin as a student at the University of Texas. But the real reason I love Longhorn football is that our son is a big fan, too. Now a fun and shared pastime, following the sport during his teenage years was more like a lifeline that kept our relationship afloat.
While he was in high school, he developed the evasive skills that all teenagers acquire fielding questions from well-meaning neighbors, family members, and perfect strangers. Where do you want to go to college/ have you taken your SATs/ what do you want to major in? Against that backdrop of inquisition, we had moments when our disagreements over studying, tests, and college applications would have made for excellent reality television.
But, fortunately, from the time he was very young, I taught him to sing The Eyes of Texas and we clapped together to Texas Fight. I told him stories about Bevo, the mascot:
When we watch a Longhorn football game on TV, he knows to watch for the unfurling of the Texas flag before kickoff. He gets that it is big and why that makes perfect sense for a Texas game.
He leaned about the Hook’em Horns sign:
And he understands why we hope the Tower will be lit in orange:
We have seen the team play a few times in person. Although I remember little about the specific plays of the games, each trip was memorable:
During all of the times we’ve talked about Longhorn football, watched the games and shared in the traditions, we’ve created a lifelong bond.
So when I read advice about how to stay close to your teenager at a time when their job is to push back from their parents, I want to suggest a short list for topics to discuss. Actually, it is a very short list:
1. Shared sports team
Whether it is college football, professional baseball, or a soccer team somewhere around the world, being a fan with your child may provide you with a go-to topic when others become too charged with pressure and emotion. While you might not need a safety subject to rally around when your child is six, you can count on needing it at sixteen. Once your child hits his 20s, the team mascot will feel like one of your oldest friends.