I spent father's day weekend 2012 with my son. He came to visit me in New York City. He's about to turn nine. One of the things he told me is that he wants to play football. Now, I never had any interest in football or any sport growing up, but I came to appreciate it later in life. My childhood was spent in attics and basements of old homes, reading old newspapers, railroad timetables, history books and building model airplanes.
But my son is different. He says he wants to play football. Predictably, his mother is hesitant. I couldn't make my case via text message, so I sent a final note this morning via e-mail. Here it is:
One last thing to think about. We all get hurt in life: physically, spiritually and emotionally. It can't be avoided. Boys -- at least in the past -- had pretty tough upbringings: fights, football (with no gear), sandlot baseball; you name it. They got hurt and they didn't go to the ER. My dad's nose is still crooked from a schoolyard fight.
Part of growing up -- a big part that I missed -- is learning how to take a fall. And by fall, I mean a physical fall. Learning to take a physical fall -- and learning to get back up (back on the horse) -- can give you the mental framework for coping with life's emotional and spiritual falls.
I didn't learn how to take a fall -- to "roll with the punches" -- until much, much later in life. I also never learned to play on a team until much, much later. And look at the consequences: to me, to you, and most especially, to the children. There is a downside -- a real one -- to being a lone ranger. My impression is that our son is not a lone
My belief is that you can't keep him from getting hurt. The question is: does he learn to get hurt -- and to get back up -- in a controlled environment, with adult supervision, as part of a structured game framework and with medical attention close at hand; or do you just let him go banging through life, hurting you; hurting his sisters; hurting his girlfriend, wife, children -- and most all of all -- hurting himself?
He will get hurt. We all get hurt. I think it's better for him if we start letting him learn how to get hurt -- and how to recover -- than to neglect teaching him this lesson. That's why I think he should at least get the chance to play football this fall.