I hope and pray that every parent gets the opportunity, at least once in their life, to witness their child pursuing a passion.
When my son Lucas was 12, he met his first love. He’s now 18, a senior in high school, and they’re still going strong. It’s rare to find love in middle school and have it endure but when you know, you know. Lucas has never wavered in his love.
Over the years, I’ve grown accustomed to the concerned looks my husband and I get when we tell people our son plays football. The hushed whispers — aren’t we concerned for his health? We’ve received more than one email from friends and family members worried that we haven’t truly considered the ramifications of possible injuries. Are we familiar with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)? Don’t we fear that he won’t be able to walk when he’s 40? Do we really know how badly he could be hurt?
Yes. We know.
Ever since my son was a baby, my mom has called, texted, emailed, and even come over to tell me in person that she’s nervous about a decision I’ve made in regard to Lucas, often involving the coat I’ve chosen for him. It’s almost always too warm or not warm enough. I frequently remind her that while it might be hard for her to believe, I love Lucas too. I love him more than I could ever put into words.
So why do I allow him to play football?
I hope and pray that every parent gets the opportunity, at least once in their life, to witness their child pursuing a passion. Watching them fall in love and hone their craft and talent — there is no greater gift.
Danger lurks around every corner. Yes, some activities are inherently more dangerous than others, but our responsibility as parents is to know the risks, do everything in our power to mitigate them, and then hope for the best. In Lucas’ case, we made sure the people helping him train and condition were actively working with him to reduce the likelihood of injury. We educated ourselves about helmet safety (the recent advances in technology really are incredible), and we made sure he played in leagues where the coaching staff was dedicated to teaching him and his teammates how to tackle in a way that minimizes the threat of head injuries. Did you know there is a right and wrong way to tackle? Football is a precision art form.
We accept there will be risks in every activity our children pursue. Our youngest loves gymnastics, a sport where broken bones and torn muscles are common, along with eating disorders and sexual assault at the professional level. My husband and I will do our best to shield her from these things, but we won’t stop her from doing what makes her happy.
We decided long ago to match our children’s energy for anything they choose to pursue. We will never push them to continue an activity they no longer want to do (as long as they fulfill their commitment to the given season or term), but as long as they remain passionate and committed, we will find a way to support them in their goal.
For the past six years, I have been incredibly proud to watch Lucas chase his dream of playing Division 1 college football. His focus has been singular, and I’ve watched his gift grow as he’s traveled across the country to play and train. Football has taught him work ethic and sacrifice, how to believe in himself, and provided him with friendships that will last a lifetime. The relationships we’ve built with his teammates’ families are among the most precious in my life. We’re godparents to each other’s children, and they are the first people I call in times of joy or crisis.
On Christmas Day 2021, Lucas committed to play college football for Columbia University in New York City. My baby, who has somehow turned into a man before my eyes, made his dream of D1 football a reality. I cannot think of a sweeter moment. Yes, football is still dangerous, and yes, I still worry. I’ll never not worry about him and his siblings. But when I weigh the risks against his pure love and joy of the game, his joy always wins.
Halley Dean lives in Kansas with her husband, three children, and attack cat. By day, she puts her extensive social media stalking skills to use as a the head of her company’s special investigations unit. She is a would be writer and passionate advocate for social justice, particularly as it pertains to issues involving women and children. She has degrees in American History, Organizational Administration, and Communications, but is often unable to locate her car keys.