My number two son’s soccer game was nearing its end. The players for the next game were warming up on the sidelines, big boys, young men really, probably seventeen or eighteen years old. As I cheered after my son’s header goal (a goal scored by hitting the ball into the net with your head), a group of spectators for the next game crowded in around me: what appeared to be a mom, a dad, a young girl (16 or 17 herself) and a grandpa trailing behind.
Though the stands were hardly full, they must have liked the looks of my vantage point because we were all wedged in pretty tight once they took their seats. Evidently they could not read my body language that clearly stated “Get out of my way–my boy is playing out there and I cannot see THROUGH you!” not to mention “Hello? I like my SPACE!”
Anyway, because of our close proximity, I was able to observe and listen, and through the course of their conversation, I discovered this little family was indeed a mom and a dad and a grandpa of one of the players soon to take the field.
Their son/grandson walked by at one point, his mom saying something to him, maybe asking him a question. (Wonder if she’s like me and asks before every. single. game. “Got your shin guards? Cleats? Water bottle?”) Though he glanced at his mom as he answered, he looked at the girl and only the girl.
She was the girlfriend.
This I could tell not just from the looking by the young boy, but by the obvious effort the mom was making at conversation. As I heard her ask the girl about what classes she was taking and attempt to make small talk about the last soccer match, I detected some small strain in her voice, some small degree of pretended pleasantry that didn’t quite ring true. Oh, don’t get me wrong, she was nice, extremely so. I just got the impression she was trying too hard, her heart not really in it.
I thought: I’ve seen my future.
Yep, one day, sooner or later, though no doubt it will come much sooner rather than later, I will be the mom making small talk with the girlfriend. She will be a nice girl, she’d better be, but still I will feel as if I must try too hard and be too pleasant because part of me will wish for the look and not the glance.
He loved me first and best, I will want to say. She of course will not believe me and neither will he. I didn’t either, not until I became a mom and literally became the center of his world. Though it was only a few months until he preferred his daddy and then several years (still counting..) until he preferred the girl.
I’m not saying I want to tie my children to my apron strings; not at all. I’ve seen mothers who smother and I do not wish that for myself nor my boys. I once had an older and wiser friend remind me that we raise our kids to let them go, and so I do. I just didn’t know it would happen so darn fast and that the letting go would be so bittersweet.
When it is my turn to sit in the bleachers making small talk with some young thing and my boy walks by with a look for her and a glance for me, may I be kind and gracious, thankful for the opportunity to love him and raise him even as I let him go, trusting the One who gave him to me in the first place.