Super Bowl Sunday is significant in my world for only one reason and that reason is communal snacking. I have no idea who is playing and zero interest in finding out, but I do enjoy a good appetizer. This is likely why I found myself drifting into my own thoughts even more than usual during the Big Game last Sunday. Parker and I had received perhaps the greatest party invitation ever: “Eat a salad for lunch, head over to our house and be sure to wear your stretchiest pants” and in spite of our Yogi-induced sleep deprivation, we were ready for the party, I mean, game.
Fatigued by simple carbohydrates and the effort of chewing, I dropped out of the conversation by the second quarter and my mind wandered to it’s favorite place, Yogi. Watching huge men crash into one another at high rates of speed is a different experience now that I have a son. On the almost never occasion of my pre-Yogi football watching, the game had precisely nothing to do with my life. Now, it hits a little closer to home. I find myself wondering about the men themselves. How did they get where they are? Is playing professional sports what they always wanted to do? Did it start with a Future Quarterback onesie and one of these plush footballs with a squeaker inside that’s just perfect for the crib?
You see, these kinds of things fascinate me. Things like parental expectations and the ways we become the selves we are. It’s something that Parker and I talk about a lot. The conversation usually begins with something like this:
Parker (pointing): Why don’t we get that one? He doesn’t really have anything orange.
Me (shocked): You mean the one with all those balls? I don’t even recognize half of them. Is that one for lacrosse? Do you even use a ball in lacrosse?
Parker (defensive but amused): It’s just a pair of pajamas. I thought they looked different than what he already has.
Me (defensive but unamused): Of course they look different. They look different because we would never buy him something that loaded with expectation. He’s 17 months old! He does not have to advertise every sport that can be played with a ball while he’s trying to sleep.
Parker (resigned and less amused): Well, which ones do you like?
Although this conversation looks like it concerns Yogi, it really says much more about who I am. The unathletic only child of a Father who had both a penchant for phrases like “A 98 is fine, but what happened to the other two points?” and a high school state basketball championship under his belt, I spent no small amount of energy defending my cerebral territory. Unable to withstand the pressure of either t-ball or swim team, my parents gave up on me long before I hit middle school. Although I’m fairly sure that even my Father made peace with the fact that I would never follow in those particular footsteps, it’s conversations like these that suggest that I never did.
So here I am twenty years later watching huge men chase a very small ball across a very large screen and hoping that I can spare my son a similar kind of sadness. And then, below even that, is something else entirely. The very real fact of distance between my son and I. He feels like a part of my own body, but he is actually his very own person. The enjoyment of team sports is something that I don’t understand and if Yogi enters this alien land will I be able to follow? I want to encourage him in whatever it is that matters to him, but what if it leads him away from me? With a toddler who is already convinced that the only way to go down the stairs is without holding Mama’s hand, I can only imagine all the ways he will be forging his own territory in the years to come. Separating from your parents is a significant part of the work of growing up, but I really expected it would be years before I started getting worked up about it.
This parenting life is an interesting one. You think you’re talking about the Super Bowl and fashion choices and suddenly you realize that all of that is nothing more than a shorthand for the things that scare you. And when you are a parent there seems to be so much that is scary. In spite of it all, sometimes a pair of pajamas really is just a pair of pajamas. And sometimes you just need to get out of your head, grab another piece of pizza and watch the game.