It’s high school football season, so for our family—and for my good friend’s family, too—it’s go time! Our favorite season of the year is finally upon us once more.
This year though, my senior son broke his leg in practice a week before his first game and had to have surgery to repair it. As a result, he won’t see a single minute of playing time this season. The season we were all looking forward to the most as a family. Because it’s my kid’s last one. And because he had high hopes that his game film and stats would help him get recruited to play in college.
In stark contrast, my friend’s son—who is a bit younger—is hitting his stride this season. He’s been identified as a key player, he’s well respected by his coaches and teammates, and he’s earning lots of time on the field. Friday night lights are celebratory beacons of good times for their family. While for us, they’re a harsh and glaring reminder of what we’ve lost.
We’re trying to adjust to the sad, abrupt ending of my son’s senior season before it even began. I had agreed to serve as a team mom this year. I’m still busy organizing and fundraising for weekly team dinners even though my kid can’t even play. My husband played football in high school and college and was emotionally invested in our son being able to follow in his footsteps. We’ve got senior night coming up, for which my husband and I will still flank our son as he crutches out onto the field to be celebrated with his teammates. But we’ll do so with somewhat deflated, heavy hearts.
At the same time, my friend’s son is making great plays and sweet memories with his team. My friend gets to attend his games with a jovial spirit and an upbeat anticipation of the contest. As a family, they’ve got more seasons of the same to look forward to, as well. And I still want to hear all about her son’s season and her reactions to it. The highlights, lowlights, unexpected moments and hoped for achievements, all. Even though for me, the next few weeks of high school football will pale in comparison.
Even when my son struggles, I want to hear about your teen’s achievement
A few days ago, mid-sentence about football this or football that, my friend paused and asked, “Wait, are you still ok with me talking football? Or is that rude or insensitive of me?” She’s a keeper, this one.
I loved her for the pause and for the ask. But I assured her I absolutely still want to hear about her kid’s season. In part, because I’m still not ready for my son’s season to be over—so hearing her recap her son’s time on the field helps keep the sport and all it entails alive for me.
This is life. We’re up, then we’re down, and we’re everywhere in between. Just because I’ve hit a low point with my kid doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear about my friend’s high points with hers. It’s nice to have someone to celebrate something with when I’m feeling blue. Hearing about my friend’s time on the sidelines and her kid’s time playing football is a nice respite from brooding about missing out on the very things I was looking forward to on behalf of my son.
Besides, these tables are going to turn for my friend and me one day. At some point, my family will catch a wave while her family gets caught in a riptide. I will be there for her like a lifejacket and a warm blanket when that happens. But I don’t want to one day have to zip my lips about a joyous time in my life or my kid’s simply because she wasn’t living the like simultaneously. I want someone to share our bitchen ride with before it ends and we have to wait to catch another.
This is friendship. Holding space for each other to talk about all of life. Not just the good times that match good or bad times that equal bad, for both parties. My friend knew I was going to say, “Keep the football stories coming, babe,” before she even asked. Because she knows she’s not being over the top or insensitive when she tells me what’s happening with her son. Because she also checks in on my son and expresses her deep sadness over his circumstances. And because she knows I’m a gal who doesn’t want her friends to feel like they have to censor themselves or omit important parts of their lives to make me happy.
I’m missing being able to watch my son do one of the things he loves most in life right now. But at the same time, I’m choosing to focus on all that remains lovely in our lives. True friends with whom to celebrate good times ranks high on that list of lovely for me, even while I am enduring hard times.
And this former football mom is leaning into the saving grace therein.
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Jodie Utter is a freelance writer & creator of the blog, Utter Imperfection. She calls the Pacific Northwest a home she shares with her husband and two children. As an awkward dancer who’s tired of making dinner and can’t stay awake past nine—Jodie flings her life wide open via telling her stories as a means of connecting pain to pain and struggle to struggle in hopes others will feel less alone inside their own stories and more at home in their hearts, minds, and relationships. You can connect with her on her blog, Utter Imperfection and on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.