We were pulling out of the driveway yesterday morning when the leprechaun on our Notre Dame flag caught my attention. The flag waved in the wind and it almost looked like the mighty mascot of the Fighting Irish was waving goodbye to us. I couldn’t help but get caught up in the moment and shout “Go Irish.”
“You’re yelling that because I have my Notre Dame shirt on aren’t you daddy?” Elliott asked. He must have missed the leprechaun’s wave.
“Actually,” I said, “we all have our Notre Dame gear on. You and Ian have your shirts; I have my hat.”
“But mama doesn’t have anything Notre Dame on,” observed Elliott.
I looked over at Katie and noticed Elliott was right. Not a speck of blue or gold or green to be found. No leprechauns or shamrocks. Katie looked at me, her face an unspoken plea for help. You could see her thinking about snatching the hat off of my head. I couldn’t leave her hanging out there like that, on an island, a traitor to our Saturday afternoon sports passions. I decided to throw her a lifeline.
“Mama has her Notre Dame underwear on,” I said. There was no way they would verify it, and my lovely wife would be freed from her current torment.
An instant before I heard the laughter explode like two car bombs in the back seat, I noticed this look on Katie’s face. It was a look that seemed to ask: “What’s the matter with you, do you realize you just planted two car bombs in the back seat. A car we’re in. A car containing our children?”
I prayed the laughing would stop. With Elliott, my prayer was answered. Ian was listening to the devil on his other shoulder, or I’m sure Katie would argue, the one in the driver’s seat. His laughter turned to giggle and his giggle to something I worried was eternal. I could hear it continue all the way to daycare next week when his teacher would get him to finally stop, and then he would calmly say: “My mama is wearing Notre Dame underwear.”
I didn’t consider this before I made the underwear comment. It is amazing the clarity of thought that comes when your life is at risk.
The panic all mine now, I worked to settle Ian. It took a few minutes, but the laughter subsided. I don’t know why, but something inside of me wouldn’t allow me to simply treasure the silence. Leave bad enough alone. I was curious, though, I had to ask.
“Ian, why was that so funny?”
“You’re silly, daddy, girls don’t wear underwear.”
I found some relief in that. I felt it was now much more likely that Ian would tell his teachers and friends that his mama didn’t wear underwear. A notion I didn’t provide. I promise. And at this point, I was finally willing to leave bad enough alone. So I let the car grow quiet and wrote it off as a good laugh. At least it was for most of us.
Elliott started soccer last week and had his first game yesterday. My family and friends have found humor in this. I guess I’ve spent many years setting up the big joke that is now squarely on me.
On my most lighthearted days, I’ve questioned the inclusion of soccer on the master list of sports. Badminton and curling and even cheerleading, I get, but soccer, that one I struggle with. I guess I grew up throwing balls, so the mere notion that a sport forbids you from even picking the ball up seems backward. Not to mention ties. How can two teams play two hours in front of crowds that often exceed a hundred thousand people in some places around the world, only to have the game end in a 0-0 tie. Then team and crowd alike celebrate like something wonderful just happened.
On my more serious days, I have probably suggested that no child of mine would ever play soccer. OK, I did suggest it. I might have even said once or twice that once my children learned the first 10 commandments, I would add an 11th. Thou shall not play soccer.
I guess I didn’t foresee how much Elliott likes kicking a ball. As much, if not more, than he likes picking it up and throwing it and catching it. I didn’t foresee the smile he gets when he moves the ball with his feet from one end of a field to another. And no, that is not dribbling. Kobe dribbles. Soccer players move the ball with their feet from one end of a field to another.
The truth is, there are days I get caught up in Elliott and Ian’s athletic potential. Shoot, I get caught up in their academic potential and their ability to sing and act and read. If I admire it long enough, I can begin to give Katie and me credit (Although I’m never really tempted to credit Katie for their singing ability).
It was Elliott who squared me away on this thinking last week. We were driving and Ian asked me when the rain was going to stop. I was ready to begin giving him an answer filled with the knowledge I’ve gained as a weather nut. I was going to dazzle him with meteorology. Elliott cut me off, though.
“It will stop raining when God wants it to Ian,” he said.
I was reminded that all of the boys’ talents and skills are gifts from God. They reflect Him far more than me or Katie. We are entrusted to help them discover those gifts, even if one happens to be soccer.
As I watched Elliott run up and down the field Sunday, I was thankful to have a child who can run, because not all of them can. I was thankful to be a parent cheering on the sideline of an athletic field and not at the side of a hospital bed, praying for the miracle that will open my child’s eyes. And I was reminded how the silly debates of this world: soccer or tee-ball, fence or no fence, democrat or republican – they are all distractions from the many blessings that are without debate.
The beginning of an era