I announced my son’s commitment to play football at Furman University last Monday to my family and friends via social media. Overwhelmed is not a big enough word for how I felt reading all the congratulations. How does one describe how it feels to be loved?
But there’s a backstory to the whole thing, and I think you should know it. Because in it, there are some nuggets I believe may mean something to you, too.
When Graham was little, he loved to draw. He would spend hours sketching and shading and imagining and coloring. Favorite super heroes, animals, you name it…the boy would bring it to life with his hands. Many days I stood in awe of the talent and hung up as many of his pictures as would fit on my wall.
But in that admiration there was also a tinge of sorrow. Because I had dreams for my oldest son and in retrospect, they were mostly about me. I bought into the silent expectation that in order for boys to be manly they needed to be all about sports and my son just wasn’t. He never knew, but inside, as silly as it sounds, I mourned the loss of a dream I didn’t have a good reason to want.
But over time, and after some tears and prayers, I put the dream away. And I fully embraced the new dream of seeing him use his artistic talents for the glory of God. I even got excited. I stocked him up on all the pencils and pens and paper and watched him create amazing things, day after day.
You can imagine, then, my surprise, when years later he comes home to tell me he’s playing football at recess. I like it, he says, and I can see the eyes gleam. More and more, he plays football outside, while the art sits on the table waiting patiently for him to return. Soon he no longer picks up the pencils. The artist inside him never leaves but it grows quieter and quieter until one day, he draws no more. And I must, once again, change gears. And I must, once again, mourn another dream.
But this is parenthood, is it not? The sweetest slow death to me.
Graham became quite an athlete.
I could tell you all the things, because I have them memorized: the plays, the catches, the touchdowns, the interceptions: I remember each one. But I memorized the tears, too, and sometimes their memory is stronger. I memorized the days he lived some challenging things in a changing environment throughout his high school football career. I memorized the sound of a coach’s voice that did not believe in him, the smells and sounds of grueling days of summer football practice, the day he told his teammates he was leaving his senior year to go to a different school. The dream felt especially bad that day.
And as any good cheerleader would, I stood on the sidelines and watched and cheered. I watched him thrive, and grow and learn. I watched him do hard things with determination. I watched him earn the respect of new teammates and coaches and earn the right to start the game and play both sides of the ball. I watched him be interviewed for the paper and send me joyful texts about how he was highlighted again in the news as a player to watch. And as with every other time he chased a dream in all of his 18 years, I fought to make the dream not about me.
And now here we are with a grown up young man and his dream to play college football, which has unbelievably become real. And I realize really all of it has been a leap: to risk, to rise, to change, to obey the voice of God, to cheer from the sidelines. There has been hard work and there has been inexplicable favor. Crazy God things that are too long to write in this blog that I wish we could sit down over coffee and let me tell you.
But I want you to know this, about your own life, too:
- Sometimes dreams don’t die but they go dormant for awhile and then God gives them back to you. Just always be ready to change gears.
- Sometimes people won’t believe in you. It’s ok: it doesn’t change you having the goods.
- Follow leads, walk through doors, take risks, if no other reason…so you can never say it was because you didn’t even try.
- Pray and trust God. Pray and trust God. Pray and trust God.
- (Parents) Don’t make your kid’s dreams about you.
You never know when God may dream up something better or give the old dream back.
In the meantime, just cheer.