Love. Math Skills. Patience. And UT Football. These are the things my husband, Eric, brings to the parenting table. I admit when I started dating Eric at the University of Tennessee, I wasn’t a huge football fan. I went to the games, but I really only cared about if we won because that would dictate how fun the parties would be that night. Fortunately, we had a full nine months of dating before the season started so that he could bring me around.
Little did I know that his (and now my) love of UT Football would be a cornucopia of life lessons for our children.
- Tradition is important. UT Football isn’t just a game. It is a TRADITION. I married into a family that is steeped in this tradition. If it is a Saturday and the Vols are playing, you are there cheering until you are hoarse the next day. We planned our wedding around the school calendar for the teachers, the harvest for the farmers, and the UT football schedule for the inlaws. Our Saturdays in the fall are reserved for the Orange, White, and Family. Watching and cheering on the Vols has given an opportunity for our oldest son, Ethan, to have a special bond with not only his Daddy but his Papa too. He loves to watch the game and ask a million questions so that he knows the ins and outs of how the game is played. UT football is a tradition for our whole family that will last a lifetime. Whether we win or lose, we don’t lose our tradition.
- My All. We give our all for Tennessee. We don’t just roll into the parking lot right before the game. No. We warm up with a big tailgate. Make a mad dash to Peyton Manning Pass for the Vol Walk. Watching Ethan’s excitement as he brushes fingers with Coach Jones and all the players he idolizes on the field makes the huge crowd worth it. We tear up as we sing the alma mater, nearly come out of our skin with excitement as we watch the Pride of the Southland Band form the Power T, cheer wildly when we see the team storm through the T, sing Rocky Top at the top of our lungs, devour Touchdown Dogs, and third down for what like no one’s business. And we don’t just do this for the “big” games. Every. Dang. Game. And that is what you gotta do in life. You can do it halfway just to get through or give it your all and really live.
- Teachable Moments. Sometimes when you are giving it your all, you encounter people who take a whole different meaning to that saying. The week before the first game this season I had been talking to the kids about alcohol. I was trying to explain to them that when you had too much, it would cause you to make bad choices. When we were tailgating at Nissan Stadium, Ethan and I witness a man who was stumbling around and singing “Rocky Top” at the top of his lungs up and down the parking lot. At 10 a.m. I looked at Ethan and said, “Son, you remember when I said too much alcohol can cause you to make bad choices?” He answered, “Yea. You mean you can act a fool.” Bingo. Bless that man. I am sure he thought he was giving his all for Tennessee, but I am fairly certain he wasn’t standing by the time the game started four hours later. All kinds of lessons of what to do and not to do at games.
- Celebrate the wins. I was spoiled when I was a student at The University of Tennessee in the late 90s. We were on a great winning streak. We expected to win. We haven’t had a season like that in Ethan’s lifetime. Ethan was the only one in the family that could make the Georgia game because of other commitments we couldn’t get out of. It’s ok. He didn’t need us. He just met his Papa at a Truck Stop off the interstate and rolled on to Rocky Top without us. I was so glad he was there to experience that win. I had tears rolling down my face when I saw the players sitting on the wall in the end zone with the fans. They deserved that win and were basking in its glory. When I finally talked to Ethan a few hours later, I could still hear the excitement in his voice. It is important to take the time to celebrate the good times.
- Don’t let Defeat defeat you. Ah, there is always that other side of the coin. And unfortunately, we have had more experience with this side than we would like. That is the way life is though. Sometimes we work our butts off, think everything is going to go our way, and fail. And it sucks. And sometimes it isn’t fair. It is a really hard concept for a 9-year old boy (or even a 37-year old man). We can get mad when things don’t go our way. Sulk. Hang our head in defeat. Get ready to just throw all our plans out the window. And sometimes you do have to get your mad out. Last week after the loss to Bama, Ethan was heartbroken and spittin’ mad. We gave him some alone time. When that wasn’t enough, we had him run some laps around the house. Then my husband gave him a stick and told him to go hit a tree. (Laisseze Faire parenting at its finest 😉 After all that is said and done, we have to dust ourselves off, learn from our mistakes, and prepare for next week. But back to #1. Tradition. You don’t turn your back on your team.
- No one is perfect. There are eleven players…people…humans that are on the field. Not a one of them are perfect, but we expect them to never make a mistake. Every kick that is missed…reception that is dropped…ball that is fumbled. No one wants that play to be executed perfectly more than that player. And that player? I will blink and Ethan will be the same age as him. They are still kids growing into men with the pressure that I could not even begin to understand. They are going to make mistakes because they are human. The key will be for them to learn from the mistakes and practice to improve just like in real life. And we have to learn to not be so hard on others.
- It’s all about CHARACTER. Ethan has no less than six Peyton Manning jerseys (UT, Colts & Broncos, of course). Sure he is an amazing athlete, but he is an even more phenomenal man of character. I am proud to see Ethan wear his number on his chest. I gladly plastered a Fathead of Peyton on his bedroom walls. I am thankful for players like Joshua Dobbs who works his tail off on the field and in the classroom. Oh how he wishes he could have a Dobbs jersey!! Darn NCAA rules!! 😉
So now we are faced with a real grown up sized problem. The next game is Saturday night…in Lexington…on Halloween. It was a time of serious contemplation in our house. Travel 3.5 hours to Lexington to cheer on the Vols? Or Trick or Treat.
Dun Dun Dun!!!!!
Agony. Tears. Then…free candy won out. That is the great thing about tradition, we have a lifetime to cheer on the VOLS. But I am on borrowed time of having kids who still want to be kids.
And Ethan is dressing up as his other fav – Jalen Hurd.
Growing a #VFL