As the summer begins to wind down and fall begins to knock gently on our door, I typically find myself in my happy place—not because of pumpkin spice anything, or leggings and boots, or shiny new academic year planners and school supplies — but because both of my boys are boys of fall.

Six years ago, I begrudgingly let my oldest son try football, secretly hoping he would hate it. He didn’t hate it. Not even a little. I could never have expected how the game of football would change his life or help shape him and eventually his younger brother into the amazing, young men they are today. 

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Now, years later, once mid-August rolls around, the daily football practices kick in, and my boys are on a football field for over 10 hours each week.

Practices, drills, play memorization, game days, and game film fill our August to November months every year. 

During those few months each year, birthday party invites get declined. Vacations do not happen. Yard and housework take a back seat. Time moves quickly in our house during the fall and is filled to the brim with football. It is always busy and overwhelming but also packed with fun, friends, and growth.

This fall will be quiet.

There will be no game day jerseys in the halls of school. No slinging mud and dirt and grass. No smelly helmets, cleats, and shoulder pads that accidentally get left in my car overnight. No game day jitters. No huddles. 

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There will be no sitting at practices for me watching my boys and their friends learn new skills and becoming better versions of themselves. No standing on the sidelines cheering my head off. No giant bags full of snacks on Sundays to carry me through three back-to-back games. 

This fall will feel empty.

Right now our family is left with a big football-sized hole in our lives, bigger than the basketball-sized one from the spring, and bigger than the lacrosse-sized one from the summer. 

But in a few weeks, when I feel that chill for the first time announcing fall’s official arrival, I’ll hold onto hope that this will be the only quiet fall for our family and that soon all my boys will be back where they are happiest—with their teammates on the field. And I’ll hold onto hope that soon enough I will be back where I am happiest—cheering them on from the sidelines. 

Jenni Brennan

Jenni Brennan, LICSW is an author, podcaster, college professor, therapist, and mother. Her work centers around the topics of grief, health and wellness, relationships, and parenting.