This morning I was on Facebook and watched a video of my nephew playing his first year of football in pads. The boys are so little they can barely move around in the pads and helmet. But this is the beginning of manhood. This is where it all starts.
My son started playing football when he was 7 years old, and that was when my heart began to feel a little twinge of pain. It was the realization that he was going to have to grow up. The sweat, the smell of the freshly mown grass and the growing brotherhood among the boys mix with the magic of the hot August sun, raising them to the next level of boyhood. They may look the same, but their demeanor and body language change into one of confidence. They've entered a secret, masculine world where no girls are allowed and realize, "this is what it's all about." They've used Transformers to tackle anything that came in their way. They've staged army men, who at the whistle, weaved their way around deadly land mines and escaped the enemy in hot pursuit. Now, with the help of rising testosterone, they can make it a reality.
I watched my little guy, and I felt that twinge of pain because I knew one day he would have to be so manly, so strong and stoic—so different from me. That would separate us. Now at 16, he is that young man. What I didn't realize then is that I would be so very proud of him. The fact that he grew up so quickly makes me sad, but my pride in the amazing young man he has become far outweighs any sadness. He takes on responsibility and has a strong work ethic. He loves his family and is a leader. What more could I want? I watch him out the window now mowing the grass and moving firewood, and I'm amazed at how much I love him. I go to all his wrestling matches which are mentally and physically grueling. As I watch his muscles move fluidly and then strain, I'm reminded of how manly and strong he has become—so different from me. Thank goodness.
When he walks out my door, I'll feel that same twinge of pain I felt when he walked onto the football field for the first time. But I've learned that my pride will eclipse the pain. Confidently, he'll enter a different world and realize "this is what it's all about." Everything he learned in football will help him succeed in his profession. He'll succeed in life because of everything he learned from me.