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Devlyn Brooks, Published August 31 2010

Parenting Perspectives: Father’s football flashback

If it’s true that we partly have children to vicariously relive our youth, then man, this past week, I’ve felt like I was a teenager.

My oldest son, Garrett, donned his football gear for the first time last week as his seventh-grade team took to the practice field. And one night, we worked together to make sure everything fit. Piece by piece, he started looking more like a football player until, at last, he slid his helmet on.

Bang! It felt like a lightning bolt hit me and I was transported back 20 years to a football field in my hometown, the smell of decomposing leaves and a slight chill in the air.

I was stunned. Not by Garrett’s similar appearance but by my own visceral envy that gripped me.

Football was the central preoccupation of my teenage years. While I enjoyed school and did fine enough, I viewed it as the vehicle allowing me to play football.

I loved everything about football. Everything – the dreaded two-a-day workouts that signaled the end of summer, the tackling dummies and dirt and chalk lines and scoreboards and the scrapes and bruises that came with playing. I loved waking up Saturday mornings and feeling like I’d been run over and then going to work out to loosen up my body.

Performing under the lights on Fridays meant more than life itself at that age. My fondest memories of high school are of teammates, coaches and the smell of grass smashed into my face mask.

I went on to play some college ball but eventually quit because a chronic injury became painful enough that it presented few options. To continue playing would have meant serious surgery, and I wasn’t that committed. I painfully accepted that sometimes enough is enough.

But as I saw Garrett standing there in his cleats, pads and helmet, all of the high school memories came rushing back. Given the opportunity right then, I would have strapped on the pads again at any price.

Sigh …

Instead, I pulled Garrett’s helmet close to my face.

“No speeches,” I said. “Just do me one favor: When you step on that field tomorrow, soak it in, all of it – the wind sprints, the drills, even the endless running of plays because one morning you will wake up and wonder where the past six years have gone. And whether you play after that or not, you will not feel what you’re feeling right now. Now go get ’em, kiddo.”

I doubt that my words sunk in. We parents can be a bit melodramatic at times, and it’s inevitable that at age 12, we believe everything good lasts for a lifetime.

Thankfully, for me, I get to live it one more time, albeit from the sidelines watching my son. I hope it’s just as special this time around.

Devlyn Brooks works for Forum Communications Co. He lives in Moorhead with his two sons.