Two weeks ago Jonathan, our 9th grader, came home from school on Friday and announced that he did not want to continue playing football. A summer of conditioning, two-a-day practices in August, a Midnight Madness pre-season exhibition, a scrimmage in which he actually got to play . . . and then, with the first game of the season just around the corner, he wants out.
You can imagine the discussions in our house that weekend. Why? we asked, and then grew frustrated when it all boiled down to the simple fact that he just didn't like it. But that wasn't a good enough answer for us. We talked about commitment, overcoming obstacles, and teamwork. We talked and we talked but, by Sunday, he was adamant about his decision. Well, we said, take a break from practice for a couple of days and think about it.
My husband and I waited through Monday. Then Tuesday. During this time we entered into a parenting wasteland ... the place parents go when they are racked with indecision. We didn't know how to guide our son because we were lost, too. Oh, we prayed, but there were more questions than answers. Should we do this? Do we do that? Do we even need to do anything at all?
And we were buffeted with thoughts of what people would think. We are not proud of this, but this was forefront in our minds. What would the coach think? What do we tell our friends? Will the other players make fun of him? Will they think we are bad parents if we don't insist that he play, or bad parents if we do?
On Wednesday Jonathan spoke with the coach who is always understanding when a player wants to quit. Football is not for everyone, he is fond of saying; but when he said this to Jonathan, he also told him to go home and sleep on it.
On Thursday morning Jonathan got ready for school. I don't know what to do, he said.
Later that morning Joe and I were talking on the phone. Joe was worried that, at this point, if Jonathan stayed on the team it would be because he was pressured into it. We thought back to the beginning of summer: Jonathan started working out with the team at our suggestion; when he expressed doubts a few weeks later, we encouraged him to continue until the scrimmage; after the scrimmage he was quiet, but we told him the hard part was over and that things would get easier.
And as we talked we realized that all along Jonathan had been a good son; he had listened to us and had given football a try . . . again and again. He didn't just decide out of the blue that he didn't like it; he had been telling us all along.
At that point Joe and I did what we should have done several days earlier: we surrendered and stopped trying to make things work out the way we thought they should. And in surrendering we found our way out of that wasteland. We finally listened to what Jonathan (and God) had been trying to tell us, and nothing else mattered. Nothing.
I immediately texted Jonathan: Jona-baby, Dad and I want you to know that whatever you decide will be 100% okay. All will be fine. We love you.
He turned in his jersey that afternoon.
Jonathan now spends his afternoons adhering to a workout he created to get ready for basketball because, really, that is where his true passion is found; his heart beats in rhythm with the bounce of a basketball and the sound of squeaky sneakers on the gym floor is music to his ears.
He is happy. We are happy.
And it's all good.