“What sports is your son playing this summer?”
The question caught me off-guard. I just met this woman, and we were at dinner with some mutual friends.
“Um…none,” I said.
She laughed. “I’m sure there’s something – baseball? Football? Karate?”
“None. He doesn’t play sports,” I repeated, and she abruptly turned and started talking to another woman.
It’s not the first time I’ve had this conversation. Nor is it the first time it’s ended this way: me feeling awkward and like I’ve done something wrong, and the other person usually turning away because there was nothing else to say.
See, in our house, sports are intertwined with my kid’s dead dad. My late husband loved sports. Baseball was on the TV all summer, and football played all winter. He coached my son’s sports teams from the time my son was 3 years old: baseball, soccer, football.
And then alcoholism took over.
In his last living year, when my son was six years old, my husband still coached my son’s teams, but there was something off. My husband didn’t care as much. He didn’t work with my son in the backyard. His directions were slurred, and his temper and patience were short.
When my husband died, my son lost all interest in sports. My child didn’t want to watch games on TV or in person. He wouldn’t pick up his baseball glove or a football, and he wanted the baseball pendants taken off his wall. Heck, he couldn’t look at his dad’s baseball cards anymore. My son even started struggling with keeping his focus in gym class. Sports made him sad.
A year after his dad’s death, I enrolled my son in taekwondo. We went to lessons for a couple of years, but my son never got into it. He dreaded going and wouldn’t practice. His attitude was awful on days were went. I asked him if he wanted to continue.
“No,” then he started to cry.
As he’s gotten older, he’s better able to express himself. Sports remind him of his dad, and his memories of his dad are clouded by his father’s illness.
I shouldn’t have to explain myself or my decision to not force my child to play sports. Conversations about why my kid isn’t on a team or why we didn’t watch the football game on Sunday shouldn’t make me feel bad.
Sometimes there’s more to someone’s story. Please don’t make us feel bad about that.