What It Means to Be the Mother of a Teenage Athlete
For the past couple of years, I’ve been the ultimate lacrosse mom, making round-trip drives to Denver for my sixteen-year-old son, Judd’s, hour-and-a-half practices, twice a week, roughly two hundred miles from my home. (I’ve written about these drives in another post.)
In addition to practices, I’ve flown all over the country for tournaments, standing on the sidelines of games, cheering for Judd and his teammates. While doing so, I’ve encountered a range of weather conditions from freezing rain, hail, light snow, ferocious winds to oppressive heat waves that made me feel as though my body was liquefying on the turf field. I’ve had to find laundromats in obscure places to wash his mud-stained clothes. I’ve also had to tolerate a smelly teenage boy’s sweaty body odor and putrid equipment stink for hours of long car rides.
On many occasions, I’ve asked myself what the purpose is in all this. Is Judd good enough to get a college scholarship? Is he good enough to play in college at all? Is it worth the time, the money, the stress?
With lacrosse taking center stage in our lives, I’ve missed parties at home, holiday dinners, celebrations with friends, including this past New Year’s Eve with my husband. I’ve struggled to get my work done while on the road, and I’ve had to leave the other half of my family for extended time periods.
And since lacrosse tournaments weren’t canceled these past few months during the pandemic, Judd and I put our health at risk, wandering around crowded fields, travelling via crowded airplanes, staying in crowded hotels––all during the busiest travel season of the year.
As a sports mom, I get to experience every kind of emotion on the field. The racing heart, the beads of nervous sweat, the silent prayers when the score is close. I’ve felt the anger at referees for an unfair call, the frustration of a bad play, the pseudo pain of a hurt player, and I’ve felt the joy ripple through my body when Judd scores a sweet goal. I know all too well the disappointment when his team loses to a team they should’ve beat. And there’s no greater rush than the exuberant cheers when his team defeats their opponent in the final minutes of a game.
Of course, I do all of this for the incredible benefits Judd has gained from being part of a team. He has formed new, beautiful, and hopefully long-lasting friendships. He has learned grit and perseverance. He has learned failure and triumph. He has learned that to win, he needs to work together with his teammates. He has learned to support each person on that field––giving fist-pumps to players who do well and offering kindness to those who are struggling. He has learned to make healthier food choices and to go the extra mile on his own to get better: running more, lifting weights, shooting on the goal by himself in the dark, in the cold, and playing wall ball for hours on end.
But there’s a more important reason why I do this, and why so many of my lacrosse parent friends do this too. It’s because we LOVE our children. We love them so much that we make sacrifices for them. We jump up and down on the sidelines, our hearts shining on them like spotlights. Our offspring are precious gifts that have come here to help us become better people. It’s not about losing or winning (although it certainly feels good to win!), or about whether they end up living their lacrosse dreams in college. It’s about giving our kids the opportunity to fuel their passion. And it’s about finding gratitude in each moment, enjoying the time with our boys, riding the waves along with them, and acknowledging how lucky we are to have these experiences—for physical life on Earth is temporal, so being a sport’s parent is just another avenue for expressing our infinite love for our children.