“Hey bud, let me give you some advice.”
“Matt! I know…you already told me!”
Matthew looks a little disappointed that Kaden won’t listen to him. I lean over, trying to gently remind him that Kaden is just nervous. This is his first time playing tackle football. I look in the rear view mirror. His shoulder pads look entirely too large for his little body. He stares out the window as we drive towards the football field. I look at Matthew. He seems just as nervous as Kaden.
Matthew is beyond patient with my children. Having no children of his own, I know that he is enamored and intrigued by them. He has known them for four years now. He has seen them grow and change. He has seem them at their worst and seen them at their best. He is more supportive and encouraging of them then most fathers I know. And he is beyond excited that Kaden is playing one of his favorite sports. A sport he grew up playing, a sport he helped coach and one he is still passionate about to this day.
We pull up, trying to find parking. There are few options nearby, as its a football field surrounded by homes. Parking consists of anywhere a car can maneuver a spot along the curb.
Matthew unloads from the van and we are trying to find a place for his wheelchair to get over the curb. It’s an older field, so handicapped accessibility wasn’t a well thought-out plan in those days. He takes to the street till he finds a break in the curb. I have to follow Kaden into the shop area to get his helmet adjusted and to find his coach. There are parents everywhere, kids taking to the field. I have no idea where I am going or what I am doing.
It’s chaos. Parents, mostly mothers, who are gabbing, excited to see other moms they haven’t seen since school ended, are standing in their circles. Dads are grabbing their son by the face masks and shaking their heads up and down, side to side. Thankfully, I know one of the men who organizes the league. He pulls my son over, and does the same ritual. Making sure my son has his gear, we head out to find our team in the sea of helmets and pads.
Matthew is stuck.
Not literally, however, he can’t get anywhere on the field. The handicapped area has a three inch drop onto the ground. The sun is hot and this is where I get grumpy. I completely understand that most people take for granted curbs and edges. They have no concept of the difficulties of what it takes to get a wheelchair from point A to point B. I do understand, and sometimes, it gets beyond frustrating. Something so minor, can end up being such a hassle. Thankfully, a friend lives across the street and came over with a plywood board for Matthew to use as a little ramp.
I had every intention of getting my son situated with his coach and then leaving. Two and a half hours seems like a long time to sit and watch nine year olds run drills. However, this is where my bad parenting gets overruled. Matthew is adamant that we sit and watch him practice. I would prefer to leave and come back.
Matthew loves going to see my kids play in their sports, or perform in their activities. Sometimes I think he enjoys it more than I do. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not as if I don’t like going. I adore my children and love doing things with them. I just have three kids. Add all of those things up over time. That’s a lot of activities! Then when you add a husband with a wheelchair, and certain needs, and its a lot to take on some days.
Like taking your son to his first football practice. No big deal. Now add to it that nobody thought about wheelchairs, and it becomes…complicated.
But, as I have learned throughout this journey, it’s easier to go with the flow than it is to get pissed off about the things I can’t control. And things have a way of working themselves out. Sometimes, you just have to have a little faith…
Whether its the friend who happens to have the right size of plywood to make a quick little ramp, or the league coach who helps tuck my son under his wing and helps me out with gear and equipment I know nothing about, knowing I am one of those moms and am completely lost.
Or when a little boy is all sweaty and tired after his first practice and Matthew offers one last tidbit of advice and this time, he listens…
“Ok buddy, the best time to let one rip is while you’re in the huddle! But you can’t laugh, you gotta keep a straight face!”
(I’ll bet you can imagine the glimmer of mischief in that little boy’s eyes and the giggle when he realized he has practice again tomorrow!)