Tonight was the last game of the Jr. High season. Coleman is officially part of the Sr. High football team now. Along with the other ninth grade players, he has been invited to join the afternoon practices. It is the arrival of the ninth grade athlete. The passing of the pigskin from a bonded brotherhood of soon to be graduates to the bright eyed freshman bravely bridging that bond. I remember when these Seniors were little squirts drowning in their eighth grade jerseys, shuffling down the halls and looking up – way up – to the players who had made it. They’d put in the time, face planted, pancaked, ate dirt… They weren’t just the Boys of Fall, they were the stars. And just like that, these little squirts became the stars… and my boy is practicing with them.
Let me tell you about Tuesday’s practice. I sat in the car after school thinking about too much. While Coleman was huddling with the big guys on the practice field, I was thinking about this dang peanut allergy and clinical trial and how I’m the timekeeper and dose monitor and homework helper and taxi driver and how everything has to fit precisely in its place. Precisely. Three hours a night has to be set aside or squeezed in to administer his dose of peanut. So, no, I wasn’t swimming in pride or wallowing in “how did he grow up so fast?” I was stressing over peanuts and precision.
I told him we can’t. We can’t do afternoon practice. We can’t do Sr. High football just yet. We can’t miss Scouts and bedtime and homework assignments – it just can’t all be done. He was disappointed. He resisted, said some things he didn’t mean, but mostly he was just disappointed.
I was disappointed, too.
The next day a steady stream of football players came through my classes. They were Seniors. The big guys. The Stars.
“Mrs. Selby. (Jokingly) I yelled at your son yesterday! He was standing on the side at practice and I told him to get over there and start tackling. I took him down!”
… I bet he loved that.
“Mrs. Selby. Your son is so sweet. Yesterday at practice he was drying off the balls and I told him I’d help him. He tried to throw one to me but it went straight up in the air and he told me he was sorry. I thought that was really sweet.”
… Oh my. Only Coleman could throw a ball that the quarterback couldn’t catch. But he thought it was sweet.
“Hey Mrs. Selby! Look at the poster we made of our Senior lineup! Do you want one?”
… Yes. Yes I do. I absolutely want one.
By the time the last bell of the day rang, I realized there was a place where Coleman needed to be. A place where failure wasn’t recorded on a report card or a scoreboard. A place where timers weren’t set and powders and puddings weren’t precisely mixed. A place where he and his buddies were stepping up to the next level of the sport and they had some very kind, very inspirational, very impressive big guys ushering them in.
So I took him down to the practice field. And I sat in my car and smiled.
I’m thankful for my Senior lineup. The heroes of faith who put it all out there on the field. They learned the plays. They shared the victories and pushed through the losses. They reached back to me when I didn’t have a clue what to do and they were kind, and inspirational, and impressive. They helped me realize where I need to be: on the practice field. I’m not a failure or a slave to time and task. I’m part of a brotherhood and sisterhood that is bonded by a love that exceeds our comprehension.
Are you new to the game? Drowning in your jersey? Look at your Senior lineup. They are there for you.
Have you put in the time? Face planted, pancaked, eaten the dirt? Look at your Freshman. They need you.
I am thankful for my Senior lineup, and if you’re a Freshman who needs a hand, I’ll be in your Senior lineup.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11