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As the mother of three boys, I have spent many hours on the sidelines while my sons learned the fundamentals of every sport under the sun.

Jimmy tried his hand at soccer, tee-ball, basketball and football by the time he hit second grade. A couple of years ago, he introduced me to the rough and tumble world of lacrosse, which ranks at the very bottom of sports I want my children to play.

If you happen to be a lacrosse enthusiast, please don’t take offense at my bad attitude. It can be blamed on unfamiliarity with the sport and the fact that it’s hard for me to cheer on a bunch of teenage boys armed with metal sticks.

I’m much happier now that Jimmy spends his afternoons running with the cross-country team, as long as he remembers that it’s not a contact sport. My concern stems from the fact that his motivation to join the team suddenly increased when he found out the boys’ and girls’ teams practice together.

Fighting rush-hour traffic to retrieve my cross-country runner from the high school is nothing compared with the time I devote to Ronnie’s budding football career.

The sport now dominates my social calendar, as it has for the past two years. Tommy decided to sit this season out, which is the only thing allowing me to catch my breath in between taxiing the other two boys to practices and making sure their sweaty uniforms are washed.

"I’m going to concentrate on my school work now that I’m in middle school," he explained when it was time to register for football. So far, Tommy has spent most afternoons roaming the neighborhood with his buddies rather than hitting the books.

Ronnie’s enthusiasm for football depends on what he might be missing out on at home. But whether he wants to hit the field or not, I have to make sure he gets to practice on time. At this point in the season, my attitude is, "Hey, if I can stick with it, so can you!"

He began reporting to practice five days a week beginning the first week of August. There I sat on the sidelines, just as I had for the past two summers, with trickles of sweat reminding me how much I would rather be at the pool.

The first couple of days were nerve-wracking for me, but I pretended it didn’t bother me to see my youngest child out on a football field. "Was it this scary two years ago when Tommy tried out?" I asked myself.

During the team’s warm-up, I caught Ronnie’s eye and he broke out in a big grin despite the mouthpiece jamming up his teeth. That smile helped ease my nerves a bit as I realized he must be just as crazy as the rest of the males in our family.

In his first game, Ronnie played great as the defensive line captain. He also got the wind knocked out of him late in the game and lay on the field long enough to put my stomach in knots.

It was hard not to run out on the field and check on him, but I stayed in my seat and tried not to embarrass him with my motherly concerns.

Ronnie was back on his feet with that same goofy grin on his face within minutes. As the wave of relief swept over me, a new thought crossed my mind: A happy defensive lineman could means more football seasons ahead for him and me.

Ugh.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has been married to a Marine for 17 years and currently lives in Springfield, Virginia. You may e-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or visit her Web site at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.


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