My almost 14 year old son broke his arm a few weeks ago.
It was his first football game of the season. And his last, as it turns out. He was starting quarterback, last year's MVP, and spent all summer in football training camps. And after one bad fall, he's done until next year.
So I've been worried. Not about his arm--after a scary couple of hours in an ambulance and emergency room, we knew his arm would heal just fine. I've been worried about his spirit.
See, my son is an athlete. Everything in his life is geared around playing sports. And he is pretty good at it, which earns him respect and a place as a leader among his peers. His focus all through fall is football. All spring it's baseball. And in between, he plays basketball just for fun. What about school, you say? Well, it's what he does to fill in time before the next practice or game. And he keeps his grades at acceptable levels so mom and dad will drive him to those practices and games. To my son, in many ways sports isn't just what he does, it is who he is.
What will he do when he can't do what he is known for doing? Like I said, I was worried.
You know my favorite times as a parent? It's when you step back and watch your child and they completely and utterly amaze you. Without so much as a hint of advice from Dad and I on how to handle himself about things, this young man has taken this situation on with the same calm confidence he used on the football and baseball fields. He attends every game, and cheers his team on. He tries to go to the practices, as well, and helps out the coaches. He has focused on scouting with a renewed determination to get his Eagle by the time he turns 16. He has even stepped up his focus on school, becoming interested in doing as well as he can, not just in doing enough to get by.
He aches at what he is missing out on, though. I see it in his face as we drive home from a game that he didn't play in. I see it in the way he kind of "hovers" around the house each afternoon when, with no practices to rush to or plays to memorize, he finds himself with too much time on his hands. But even with that, I see in him a resolve. An understanding and an acceptance. He might get down, but then he will jump up and get moving again. I wish I could say that he got that from me.
I remembered yesterday what I said to him as he was in the ER waiting to be seen by the orthopedic surgeon. He had mentioned his concern at not being able to play anymore. I said, "Spencer, I love who you are. And football has nothing to do with it."
It was true then, and even more so now.