There are many ups and downs in the life of a divorced father. I know I don't have it as bad as some divorced dads, but I also know I have it worse than others. I don't want to bore my few faithful readers with the sordid details of my private life, but I wanted to blog about something positive. I wanted to blog about something more important than just football or sports in general.
I'm not sure how to approach this subject matter here, so if I come off as overly sappy I apologize in advance.
I just mentioned ups and downs. Let's start with the downers. My son Michael loves football, just like his dad. He used to sit with me and watch bemusedly while I yelled at the TV and jumped up and down only to see the Bears pull out a close victory. He had an Urlacher jersey, and he was a Bears fan, but alas...
At seven years old, Michael's biggest male influence in his life is now his older half-brother, Tait. Tait is fourteen years old and has played football for four years now. He is currently a freshman and just completed his first year of high school football. He is Michael's hero. He is also a recently converted San Diego fan. Now Michael is a Chargers fan too.
Michael's teacher recently told me that Michael, while struggling a bit with reading, will read anything football related, and "Boy, does he love those Chargers!" I think she was expecting me to say that I was a Chargers fan too, but I kept silent. All I could do was sit there and think dejectedly, "Well he used to be a Bears fan."
He used to tell me that he was going to be a professional football player, but that he'd never play for the Bears. One day I asked him why. "Because you always yell at the Bears players, Daddy, and I don't want you to yell at me when I'm playing." I asked him, "Do I ever yell at you when you're playing flag football?" "No," he replied. "Well then I wouldn't yell at you if you played for the Bears either. I would be too busy telling everyone in the stands that you're my son, just like I do now." He took that in for a while and said, "Okay, well I guess I could play for the Bears."
But those days are gone. I can see that I am not as big an influence in Michael's life as I once was.
I take small comfort in the fact that, while the Bears are no longer his favorite team, we still share a love of football. Even if Michael never comes to his senses and returns to the Bear-Nation, we can have fun when the Bears and the Chargers play every now and again. I can take solace in the fact that he inherited his new favorite team from a young man who never really knew anything about football until I became his stepdad.
See, older-half-brother Tait is an awesome baseball player, but never showed interest in football until he met me. He was vaguely aware of football on TV, but really never played it until he played with me in our backyard. When I first met him, Tait was a Packer fan. We had fun with our little in-house rivalry, and I especially have enjoyed the Lovie Smith years! But I'm getting off the point...
Michael is not my little middle linebacker. I played soccer with him for thirty minutes Sunday, and (at seven years old) he ran me into the ground! He's too darn fast! On defense, I'm sure he'll be playing somewhere on the edge. He's my little outside linebacker right now. I love Michael dearly, and he provides me with a steady diet of memorable moments, but this blog isn't really about him.
I recently sat in a mediation session with my ex-wife and listened to her tell the mediator that the kids didn't want to come see me at my house anymore, and how I'm a negative influence in their lives. She was trying to fix it so I couldn't see my kids during the week. Fortunately, the mediator saw through the B.S., and I'm now seeing my little ones every Wednesday afternoon and evening. But no good parent should have to sit and listen to someone say the things that were said that day.
The only thing that kept me from coming unglued during that mediation session was the thought of my little middle linebacker, Anna. My little girl will turn five years old in less than three weeks. She's a big girl for her age (see my images), and with two older brothers, she's tougher than most boys her age. Don't get me wrong, she still likes to sing and put ponytails in her hair and play with dolls. (And yes, Daddy plays dolls with his little middle linebacker on occasion.)
Sitting in that little room listening to she-who-shall-not-be-named spew venom at me, I was calm. I thought about one of Michael's flag football games. Anna ran over to me and plopped down on my lap. She's getting so big that I let out an audible, "Oof!" Borrowing a line from my dad, I said, "You know, Anna, I think middle linebacker will be your position!" This elicited a chuckle from the parents who were sitting nearby. I continued, "Do you want to play football next year?"To my surprise, Anna nodded her head. Then she looked up at me and said, "Daddy, will you teach me how to play middle linebacker?" I couldn't believe what I just heard. I looked down through misty eyes and said, "Sure, honey." It was all I could say. I don't know if she really meant it or not. She's never brought it up since then. But I know it's something she said for the express purpose of showing interest in something her Daddy is interested in. It was her way of saying she doesn't care how we spend our time together, as long as we spend time together. And it's one of those moments I will never forget for as long as I live.