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Our son, Ben, has been in some form of sport since he was five years old.  We started him in soccer, through parks and rec, as he’d seen his older sister play.  He tried basketball, too.

He didn’t last long in soccer.  He would run alongside a kid with the ball, grab them and throw them down.  We were politely directed to flag football.

Ben played flag football for a couple of seasons before one of his coaches suggested that we put him in tackle football.  We were hesitant, as I couldn’t imagine my baby hitting anyone or getting hit.

I can still remember the first time Ben got tackled during a practice.  Dave and I were sitting with the other parents, watching practice when they started the hitting drill.  I squirmed in my camp chair, wincing with each crunch of the pads.  When it was Ben’s turn, I covered my face with my hands.  I heard it, but didn’t see it.  I was up out of my chair in a flash, but Ben was rolling over.  He got up with a huge grin on his face, and trotted back to the line.

Cut to ten years later.

After each game, Ben and I would sit in our darkened living room as he’d replay the game for me from his perspective.  He’d have me laughing with the stories of trash talking, punches thrown, and pancakes delivered.  (A pancake is when you put a defender flat on his back.)

After countless practices, weekends washing cars, whole Saturdays spent at games, and voices hoarse with cheering, Ben’s high school football career has come to an end.  

Friday night was Senior Night.  Before the game, each senior lines up on the goal line with their family.  They are introduced and a short piece is read about their goals after high school.  Because of our last name, we were the first to be announced.

Though this night had been ten years in the making, I still felt unprepared.  Dave, Isabel, Ben and I held hands as we walked from the goal line to the center of the field, a double line of cheerleaders lining the way.  The head coach met us at midfield, and shook our hands.  We posed for a picture, and then made our way off of the field.

I’m not going to lie.  I walked with tears in my eyes, grateful to be there with the three people I hold closest in my heart.  Our kids are both good kids.  They make me proud to be their mom, and grateful to be married to their dad.  I couldn’t have raised them as successfully alone.

Ben wants to play football in college.  He has a couple of schools interested in him, and as soon as we get his SAT and ACT scores, he can finish up his applications.

I am grateful tonight for my family, and for the road we have travelled.  I cherish each moment.