Last night, under the sliver of a crescent moon, the night air holding the promise of fall, my son scored his first touchdown.
I didn't want him to play football. Too dangerous, too much worry. But he's been waiting for this time, waiting since the first moment he touched a ball. Indeed it was the first word from his mouth. All the other sports he's patiently participated in, all were but a dress rehearsal for this. I am learning to manage my fear, to breathe through it, to let go. Sometimes I almost get there.
But as much as I didn't want him to play, I worried the first few practices that he would quit. His coach is tough, old school, a military man interested in discipline and winning. I could see my son's lip tremble during water breaks, afraid to meet my eyes, afraid that he would start crying. But he toughed it out week after week, even though this game of football wasn't meeting his expectations, even though he longed to to catch and run instead of block and tackle, even though he couldn't get anywhere near the ball. I'm a mom. I worry about his safety, but I worry about his heart, too, and I could feel the disappointment building even as he continued to show up.
Then last night he got his chance to touch the ball. It was the last quarter, we were winning anyway, and I think the coach felt it was safe enough to let a rookie have a go at the ball. I realized what was happening, my chest tight, my breath caught in my throat, and he was off. Fast, caught up in traffic, zigzagging his way loose across the field, keeping his legs moving, right into the end zone. Of course, I got a little weepy.
My son wasn't nearly as proud as I was. He just looked at me after the game, relaxed, confident, said he knew he could run the ball, he was just waiting for someone to give it to him. He was a lot prouder of the fact that he'd recovered a fumble, something he hadn't expected of himself. I miss that confidence of childhood, the absolute belief that the world is open to you, that you cannot fail. Where does that go?
I've been thinking a lot about being a child, trying to remember what it was like, what I created, how I felt. I remember being incredibly prolific, staying up til the wee hours of the night to create. I sold my creations for pocket money. I feel like I did some ambitious things, things I can no longer do, but maybe they were actually simplistic. I don't know; there aren't any photos, no evidence of my youthful endeavors. My son asked me a question from the backseat the other day. He asked me if I could remember the first photograph I ever took. It kills me; I wish I knew. I wish I could remember all of those "firsts."
Do you think about your own childhood, the risks you may or may not have taken at that time in your life? Do you think it's possible to get back to that liberated, unfettered state? It reminds me of a quote from The Little Prince, one of my favorite books - "All grown-ups were once children...but only few of them remember it."