Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I say "No" to football

Many of you may think I'm crazy for it; maybe even "un-American" since football seems to be near & dear to our nation's heart but hear me out.

In our house, we don't watch football. We don't follow teams or players. We got excited when the Broncos made it to the Super Bowl, until we found out the one player we felt like rooting for, was made a free agent at the end if the regular season. He wouldn't be playing in the Super Bowl & we quickly lost interest.

That's not why football is a no-go for me; I'm still working up to that. Stick with me here, folks.

Let's go back seven years or so to Phoenix's very first summer. It was great; warm, sunny and perfect as far as Oregon summers go. Jay was working & I was job hunting so Phoenix was in daycare during the day. A nice little daycare where they filled out diaper reports and shit so you felt like your kid was being properly cared for in your absence.

I found a job at a flooring store close to home but had to work Saturdays, with Wednesday and Sunday off. One normal-seeming Saturday morning, my mom called my cell phone while I was at work. Jay had dropped the baby off with her so he could go rafting with friends.

I wasn't thrilled about that and when she told me Phoenix had a bump on his head, I told her to call Jay and a round of phone tag began. Long story short, the four of us ended up in the emergency room of our local children's hospital, where Jay & I got to experience the "excitement" & "fun" of holding down our screaming, frightened baby for a CT scan.

That's when we found out that "bump" was a FUCKING SKULL FRACTURE. And the real drama started...

I will spare you the details of what happened next but it involved law enforcement, DHS and child services, 24-hour supervision for us & Phoenix, polygraphs and a big investigation that ultimately found out nothing. It ripped apart my relationship with my mom and nearly destroyed the relationship between Jay & I. It traumatized both of us beyond belief or possible explanation and created in us an intense fear for Phoenix's safety & his future.

We have never been the same since.

Phoenix is seven now and while we still carry the scars, he has no clue of what he's been through. He's active and smart and besides his speech delay, he's a pretty 'typical' kid. Which is what scares me. You can't SEE his brain; we don't know what's going on in there. We have no idea.

What does any of this have to do with football?? EVERYTHING. ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING.

When I'm talking with other parents, other family members, and the subject of sports comes up, I am always the Odd Man Out because I am completely open & honest about the fact that I will NEVER, EVER consent to Phoenix playing football.

I get RIPPED APART and I can't stand it. Not only is it MY choice as his parent, IT COULD BE DEADLY FOR HIM. One wrong hit, one concussion, & my boy could be gone FOREVER. Do I really seem crazy for keeping him out of a sport that could kill him??

I don't think so.

You want to let your kid risk concussions and BRAIN DAMAGE, that's YOUR CHOICE. You will have to live with your decision, just like I live with mine.

And before you ask, yes, I do realize I am putting my fears first here but in this instance, I think it's the right thing to do. Sure, you can tell me I'm being a bad mom, that I'm holding him back from life. You could argue the millions of other ways he could re-injure himself or say I'm simply being overly protective & paranoid.

You are entitled to your opinion but whatever your argument is, I have some questions for you: what if I'm right and you're wrong?? What if I do let him play and he takes that one bad hit, gets that one concussion that causes bruising or swelling or bleeding?? Will you be here, in my shoes??

NO. YOU WON'T BE.

You don't stand to lose something more precious to you than your own life. You won't have to deal with the fallout. You won't have to feel the emotions. Even now, you are outside, un-involved, except for the limited view I am choosing to share with you.

I am right in the middle.

I have lived with an unhinging, nausea-inducing fear for the last seven years; every fall, every accident, every bump on the head, has caused a panic that shakes me to my core and threatens to steal my sanity. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. I literally black out, tunnel vision. All I see is Phoenix. Is there blood? Are his eyes dilated?  Does he feel sick? Is he responding properly? Should we go to the E.R.? And Jay is even worse. For him, this is a wound that reopens with every new injury, whether it's a bump on the head or a stubbed toe. I think coming so close to losing Phoenix, and the trauma that followed, almost broke him.

Every headache Phoenix complains about has us looking sideways at each other and inevitably, I'm reaching for the phone, calling the pediatrician.

'He has a headache?' 'Yes, ma'am. A headache.' 'Just give him some ibuprofen; he'll be fine.'

Yeah, they think I'm crazy too.

Until you've experienced that most-intense level of fear -- fear for the life of your child -- you can't begin to understand the heart-stopping panic, the debilitating fear, the amount of thought that we put into every choice that involves Phoenix, his safety especially. I'm not above admitting that I breath a sigh of relief every time he decides learning to ride his bike or skateboard is "too hard" or when we just can't afford sports. I try to be encouraging because I do not want his confidence to lessen any more but deep down inside, I'm grateful I have one less thing to worry about.

He has a bike, and a helmet, and a skateboard. He doesn't use them. He  does rides the shit out of his scooter, though; with his helmet, of course. I don't want you thinking I have him swathed in bubble wrap, living in a padded room or some craziness.

I know projecting my own fears on him isn't at all fair.

I know I need to get over the fear of what could happen because YES, HE WILL GET HURT.

I know I can't avoid it.

I have to do everything I can to help him live a normal, active, life, which means making sure he does stuff like learn to ride a bike. And that he does it often. I need to let him be a kid. Playing sports is part of that and I have to let him participate; he wants to and he is more than capable. He needs to be around kids his age, doing things that don't revolve entirely around speech. He needs to be building relationships and learning how to work with others. I have to nurture him & help him grow; I am holding him back & I have to stop it.

I just don't have to let him play football.

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