I have always loved football. Professional or college; it doesn’t really matter to me.
I love the rules of the game and the complexity. I love the pacing of it and the numerous skills involved by all of the players. I love the offense and I love the defense. I love the dancing, prancing, and outlandish celebrations by the players who score touchdowns; I am upset those celebrations have been tempered by the NFL, because I think they are a part of the immense joy that can only come from scoring an impossibly fantastic touchdown in front of tens of thousands of people. I don’t like the violence and its increasing prevalence, but overall, I really enjoy a good football game.
I was watching highlights of the Giants game the other night, though (yes, I even like watching ESPN football highlights), and a player got sacked. Hard. Normally, this would elicit a wince from me and maybe some utterance like, “Ow, that must’ve hurt.” But this time, I had a different reaction. When sacked and brought to the ground, this player’s body contorted in grotesque ways; joints splayed out in angles not predicted by anatomical geometry. I wondered if I had just witnessed his body and his soul parting ways. It looked truly horrible and I felt really yucky inside.
Then I realized why I was having such a strong reaction. In that flash of observation, it occurred to me that this man is someone’s son. And that hit me like a ton of bricks. I wondered what his mother felt like watching this occur. I wondered if she was even watching at all, and if not, what would it be like for her to see her son’s body crushed like this on the evening news?
The player rolled over, unfurled his legs, and got up. Miraculously, he was fine. But I wasn’t. I couldn’t stop thinking about this man’s mother. And I realized in that moment that since I became a mom, I view the world differently because I am a mom.
Take the Olympics. Watching the Olympics is a vastly different experience now that I am a mom; I used to be fascinated by someone achieving something so huge and incredible and difficult. Now that I am a mom, I am fascinated by someone’s child achieving something so huge and incredible and difficult. And it seems that everyone I meet for the past 6 years receives this scrutiny and awe from me: doctors, lawyers, check-out clerks, the garbage man, the plumber… Everyone came from a mother and everyone is someone’s child.
I see homeless people on the street and I wonder, who are their mothers? Were their childhoods happy? Did their mother look at them on Day 1 and say, “Oh my God. I can’t believe I made you.” How did they end up homeless? Where did life shift for them so that they are on the off ramp of the freeway asking for change? Couldn’t their mother help them? Maybe not. And that’s sad, too.
Of all of the mixed blessings of parenthood – the joy, the exhaustion, the agony, and the ecstasy – this shift in perception perplexes me the most. Am I grateful to have this awareness? Or is it a hindrance that turns every sad happening into something far sadder and more complicated than it needs to be? For the misogynists who claim women should not hold high-ranking military positions or political office because of their “woman-ness,” is this why!? Have I become a mushy hypersensitive hormonal Mom!?
I may not be able to tease all of that apart, and I don’t know that I need to. Who knew that we would change so much at this stage of life? That we would reach our 20s, 30s and even our 40s and have revelation and humility and tenderness for a football star on a field thousands of miles away simply because we are moms! I wonder if women who never have children (by choice or by circumstance) feel this way about contorted football players. Is this something “only moms” can understand?
Perhaps. But it doesn’t much matter. What matters is that I am connected to every mother and, apparently, every child, more deeply and elaborately than I ever was before. And it’s all because I am someone’s mom.