You are about to turn nine.
That puts you about halfway to the age at which you will leave home and head off to college or whatever adventure awaits you upon high school graduation. I have this sinking feeling that as swiftly as we’ve been crossing the first 50 yards, we’ve only been building momentum, and you’re going to reach the endzone faster than any of us are ready for.
I feel like I really only have a good 30-40 yards left before you take off at full speed and score that touchdown on your own. Only 30-40 yards to teach you everything I want you to learn, hear, and feel. I’m not sure how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to give it my all, baby boy.
These first 50 yards have been nothing short of incredible. You looked at me on day one, we locked eyes, and we were teammates. With every yard gained or lost, we have worked together to balance the roles of coach, player, referee, teammate, and cheerleader. Up until now, I’ve been able to shield you from the big, scary defense and fix any fumble with a hug and a Band-Aid.
As you cross the next half of the field, you will make the shift from a running back following the plays to a quarterback calling them. You’ll be facing more of these obstacles without me holding your hand, but I’m not worried. Sad and sentimental but not worried. We’ve been training for this ever since that day when you were about the size of a football in my arms. You’re ready for this. When the day comes that you choose to sprint independently down the field, just remember you truly are never alone, I’m always here and will run right onto that field whenever you want or need.
Since day one, we’ve had our fair share of fumbles. From a long labor to learning how to eat, roll, crawl, walk, talk, potty, playdates, first day of school, all of the firsts. We’ve gotten through tears, fears, trials, and tribulations together. Anytime you fumbled, I was there with a kiss, hug, or word of encouragement. Anytime I dropped the ball, you were there, quick to forgive, and we learned and grew together.
As you continue down the field, these fumbles are only going to get tougher. The obstacles are bigger, the opposition stronger, the tackles harder. Ironically, these will also come as you try to go it alone—more independent, determined, and strong. You will misstep, make mistakes, and at times be tackled flat to the ground. Be resilient. If the fumble is your fault, own it. If it isn’t, be gracious. Your true character comes from how you get through these challenges.
There will be times when you feel like you don’t need the rest of your team. But I promise you, baby boy, you will. Remain a good friend, a kind and humble person. Take those risks, but remember you can always call a timeout, an audible, or throw a flag, and you will have your friends and family there to help you through any hurdle.
I can’t even picture you as the grown man you will be when you cross that goal line. I’ve seen the baby pudge thin out, the lean muscles poking through, but your face really hasn’t changed too much. That smile definitely hasn’t. When the facial hair, acne, larger muscles, and deeper voice come in, it’s going to be a game-changer for both of us. Whether you’re tall, or short, bulky or lean, don’t lose that gleam in your eye. You’re a good-looking kid, but know that your looks don’t define you. Your heart shines through and is the secret weapon behind that trademark smile.
You’re going to start noticing girls. Don’t be distracted by the pompoms and frills. Find the ones who cheer for you on and off the field. The ones who stick with you whether you’re winning or losing, in good times or bad. Find the ones who make you smile, laugh, and are easy to talk to. Those who make you feel comfortable and safe while also challenging you to be the best version of yourself. Sidestep away from those who push their own values on you or try to turn you into someone you aren’t.
Be true to yourself, and find the one who respects and admires you enough to encourage that. Do the same for her. Always be the respectful, considerate, kind man you already are. There are going to be many cheerleaders in your life, and one day you will find the one with whom you want to run another 1000 yards side by side. Just don’t forget your #1 cheerleader on the sideline as well.
I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you to make healthy choices. Stay away from drugs, don’t smoke, be cautious with alcohol. Fuel your body and mind with nutrients. Take care of my baby boy!
You will meet many fair-weather fans in your life. Whether on the field, in school, or in the everyday. Some fans are only in your life for a very short period of time—during the playoffs, a winning streak, or maybe even a losing streak. My hope for you is you also find some die-hard fans. Those friends who will always have your back, no matter what. You don’t need millions of fans to be successful. All it takes is a few very solid ones. You already have several in your dad, siblings, and me. It goes without saying, I will always be rooting for you.
On the Endzone
By the way, that endzone is not an end by any means. It’s a launching pad to your next stage, new turf upon which to learn, grow, and explore. It will look very different from the game we’ve enjoyed so very much together thus far, but we will still be on the same team.
These first 50 yards have been my greatest pleasure and honor. No words can express the joy, growth, and bonding we have shared. You’ve taught me a love I never knew possible. Although we likely only have 50 yards left on the same field every single day, I pray we have thousands upon thousands more yards to cover together. I have no way to predict what your future holds and how the rest of this game will play out. One thing I can guarantee with absolute certainty is that I am, and always will be, your biggest fan.