Jordan says he’s quitting football after this season. He didn’t say it flippantly or because he had a bad game. He said it like he’s been thinking about it for days and finally just spit it out because he couldn’t take it any more. He said it even though he knew my initial reaction would be disappointment. He said it because he genuinely doesn’t want to play his favorite sport anymore.
I need to say that out loud, but I can’t yet. Not because I am a crazy sports parent that thinks my kid is going to go to college on his athleticism. Not because I think he’s the best thing to ever happen to football, but because football is the best thing that’s ever happened to him. Until now, football was the one thing he didn’t struggle at more than the average kid. During the football season, he has always excelled- in school, at home and on the field. His confidence has always been on a whole new level from July through October. Putting his pads on and stepping on that field brought a light to his eyes and a swagger in his steps like nothing else I’ve ever seen for him.
And now that light is gone. As stupid as it might sound, that hurts my mama’s heart. It’s just really hard to see your kid lose his passion for something that he genuinely loved, and know it has very little to do with him, and much to do with a lot of things beyond his control.
Having a kid with Aspergers is never easy. It’s a constant dance for me – don’t be too easy on him, but definitely don’t be too hard; don’t make excuses for him, but be realistic; be patient, but for godsake don’t let him just run me over. If I, his mother, trip over my own feet, of course I can’t expect his coaches or teachers or friends to be any different. I guess that might be the hardest part. I sure can’t keep him in a bubble, but putting him in situations where I have to trust people I’m not sure I should is exceptionally tough.
I know his confidence is more fragile than the average kid. He might pretend like it’s not- like he’s oblivious to things that others aren’t, that it doesn’t affect him the same, but it does. He sure as hell won’t talk about how he’s feeling, until he does. And at that point, his mind is made up and the stubborn determination that he’s doing what he just told you he’s going to do settles in. And so now what?
When I told him we could just switch teams next year and start over, he told me “it’s too late. I just don’t belong playing football anymore. It’s just not my sport like I thought it was.” And my heart broke. Because it’s just not true, but I don’t know how to convince him of that.
My morning has been spent trying to figure out how we come back from this. Listening to his dad fight back tears when I told him about our conversation. Trying not to be angry. So I come here, because this is where I always go… when I can’t say the words out loud.