Basketball season ended last week for us, after a hard defeat in the regional semi-finals. It was the final game for my graduating senior and a break from 19 straight months of one sport or another for my 10th grader.
As I drove the three hours home, Matt and Annalise asleep on their pillows in the backseat of the van and Seth and Zach on the team bus, I reflected on the season. The flurry of practices and games was now over. And we were all disappointed that the team wouldn’t advance.
Yet my heart was full from all that the season had given us. There are many reasons why I love having my kids in sports. The daily workouts that drain the raging testosterone desperately needing an outlet (hooray for worn-out teen boys!), the good competition that pushes them a bit further each day, the need to work with teammates and coaches.
But, personally, one of the things I love most about having my kids in sports is that I get to be the cheerleader.
That’s a healthy role for a mom of teens. In the day-to-day of chores and school work and living under the same roof, I don’t always get to cheerlead. More often, I need to correct or enforce or remind or admonish. And though these boys bring lots of laughter and smiles into my days, there are plenty of times I have to be the alarm clock, the reminder, the cattle goad and the strong spine.
But with sports, I’m the cheerleader. That’s it. There are others who will teach them and motivate them, pull them out when necessary or call the violations. My job is to applaud and whoop and holler. And I’m pretty good at that when they’re on the court.
Plus I get to root them on in other ways throughout the season. I get to work the mom magic, taking that pair of mud-caked dingy-gray practice pants my son hands me and give them back all clean and white.
I get to heap their plates with a carbelicious pre-game meal and then heap it a bit more with post-game eggs and hashbrowns. I get to treat them to a steady supply of Gatorade during basketball and Snickers during track, and once when they needed to be really fast, a hand-crafted beet smoothie. Maybe it did or didn’t make them faster, but there was a lot of love served up with it and I like to think it gave them a mental edge.
I love being in the stands at the far away games, even when they say, “It’s a long way mom; you don’t have to come.” In the years to come, I want them to remember that as much as we were able, we were in the stands cheering for them. And win or lose, hearing the words “I love watching you play” as they give that big, sweaty hug after the game.
Parenting teens is not easy. It will bring the best of parents to their knees. And for moms and sons, as special as that relationship is, the teen years can get strained.
As my sons get into their late teen years, it’s harder and harder to parent them the way I did when they were 8 or 12. While teen boys clearly need parenting and limits, it’s hard for a 5’ 4” mom to boss a 6’ 3” son. It was much easier to hand those moments over to my own 6’ 3” husband.
Being a cheerleader, rather than overseer, strengthens the relationship. It’s a shift that will happen more and more as these sons grow into men. And so for all the driving and washing and evenings home late, sports has been good for us. We’ll sit out a self-imposed margin for several weeks so that we have time and room for other things that need attention. But after that, I plan to be back at it for spring football.
*This post was teen boy approved before I hit publish.