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Football season did nothing to prepare me for the confusion and violence of spring lacrosse. I showed up carrying the latest issues of the same magazines that helped me pass the time as Tommy ran and tackled his way through the fall.

Even though the local lacrosse team begins practice in January, I was lucky enough to take Jimmy on an unseasonable warm Saturday morning. I settled into the high school bleachers to read People, glancing up occasionally to see what was happening on the field.

Jimmy had on so much gear that it was impossible to figure out which kid on the field was my son. The first hour of practice was as boring as I expected as the players did a lot of running and then took turns trying to pass that tiny ball to one another.

Then, after the second water break, everything changed.

The tired but eager boys began to engage in a sport that resembled football with metal sticks! My reed-thin seventh-grader was out there among experienced players who were already in high school.

I’m certain a few of those boys had to shave before showing up for practice that morning.

It took every ounce of self-control to keep me from running out on the field and telling Jimmy to come to his senses while he was still conscious. But then I would’ve been committing the ultimate crime — embarrassing my teenager.

So instead, I sat there among the devoted, loony lacrosse parents, and didn’t take my eyes off the field. I even managed to pick Jimmy out of the crowd as he struggled to keep up with a boy who was a foot taller than him.

To me, it appeared the boys were taking turns trying to kill each other. One player carried the minuscule lacrosse ball in the net of his stick while his opponent did everything he could to knock the ball loose or prevent the first player from taking another breath.

According to Jimmy, he played “midfielder” while some of the guys were “attack.” I can see how they came up with that label.

The other parents in the bleachers sat there chatting among themselves as if our sons were out on the field doing ballet and not engaging in hand-to-hand combat.

I tried to call Ron and ask him if he had any idea what lacrosse was all about before we signed Jimmy up, but he was at Tommy’s basketball game.

Why couldn’t Jimmy have chosen to play basketball? At least it is supposed to be a non-contact sport.

Did I mention that one of the players at that particular lacrosse practice had to be carried off the field?

I haven’t decided how to handle the next practice in a way that doesn’t make me clench my teeth. I could take my binoculars and keep up with Jimmy out on the field the whole time. At least that way, I would know immediately if it were my son collapsed out there on the grass.

Or I could sit in the parking lot in my Suburban, reading my magazines and hoping one of the coaches doesn’t call my cell phone.

Either way, I can’t get out there and keep Jimmy from getting roughed up or talk him out of playing. Now that he knows how much lacrosse frightens me, my son plans to play forever.

I’ll be there with him at practice, staying warm in the car or clenching my teeth in the bleachers, depending on the weather. I can no more predict how that’s gonna turn out than I can guess what sport my sons will be dragging me into next.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 16 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or find the Zichs online at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.

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