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Dads, Divorce and the Super Bowl!

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Guest blogger Ryan Haddon: This weekend my son's going off to the Super Bowl with his dad - my ex husband - who's not historically been a sports fan. It's a nice father-son moment for them. When my almost ten-year-old passionately yells at fouls the referee calls against the Steelers, his dad will marvel at how much his son has picked up -- from my fiancé, an avid Steelers fan since childhood. It's one of those reality checks for me, that with my divorce, my children's lives are not as shattered as I had feared they would be when that decision was made, almost four years ago.

Dad talking with son holding a football
When Jaden was seven, he started showing interest in football. As I knew nothing about the game, I asked a sporty guy I was seeing at the time for tips on teaching him myself. Every day after school we'd practice in the backyard -- the two of us -- running football drills and plays, while my daughter Eliana, just 5, twirled and danced around us doing ballet ... of course. I felt pretty cool: I was becoming the mom-who-could-be-dad, hurling a beautiful spiral through the air, but who couldn't catch for beans for fear of breaking a nail - which always happened, by the way. Jaden would laugh and watch me curse under my breath, hopping around squeezing my finger, trying to pretend it was no biggie.

He outgrew me as his coach in a short span and I put him in Little League where he was a natural amongst his peers: a strong arm, a fast runner and good with plays. He became the favorite of the team's coach, Peter Berg, the creator of the iconic football movie and TV show Friday Night Lights." You can imagine the competitiveness and drive to win out on that field: it was next-level coaching and Jaden loved it.

I'd never watched a game before in my life, so I knew that I'd have to educate myself right quick to the rules of NFL football, seeing as Jaden was "planning on becoming a quarterback star" in that league. I sat through the first quarter of a game mid-way through football season, by myself, and I almost burst into tears, overwhelmed with the verbiage: "Third down conversion?  Ten-yard penalty?  QB rating?  Unnecessary roughness?  Three/four defense?  Blitzing the corners?" And I promptly switched channels to soothing reruns of "Top Chef" to relieve my rising hysteria. At the kids' school, Rodney Peete, the legendary quarterback's son was in my daughter's class. I told his wife, actress and avid-football fan Holly Robinson, of my dilemma. She knew us ladies (or moms of boys trying to decipher the game) were out there.  She wrote a book for us called, "Get Your Own Damn Beer!  I'm Watching the Game." I spent the next weekends curled up on the couch, like a total geek, looking from screen to index page in the book, figuring out referee calls, players' positions, defense/offense language, etc. I felt like I was back in college cramming.  

I then sat triumphantly with Jaden for 2007 Super Bowl with the Colts and Bears, with him looking expectantly at me. I did my best on my own, but I eventually had to pull out my trusty manual/ book. As soon as my son saw that, his face fell, crestfallen, like, "Mom needs a cheat sheet. Mom's fronting. Mom's got no game." He smiled at me generously, and said, "It's OK, Mom. I just want to watch, anyway."  We sat together 'til half time, then he ran outside and played with his action figures. It's just not that fun when you don't know what's going on ... I stopped my TV tutorials after that.

Cut to a few years later: my fiancé issitting on the couch with Jaden watching the AFC and the NFC, with the two of them screaming their a#@es off, yelling at the screen and debating ref calls. My man knows players' histories, their strengths, their backgrounds and Jaden is his worthy student. This is stuff I couldn't learn in any book, because it's years of passionate and dedicated football television viewing.

I think the reason I worked so much at the football thing with my son back then was because I didn't want him to miss out. The divorce made me feel guilty that he wasn't getting the day-to-day of having a dad living at home like other boys had. I wanted to balance the touchy feely-ness of mothering I offered, with the rough-and-tumble that makes up a boy's DNA a dad traditionally brings to the table. I did my best back then. I like that I stretched myself out of my comfort zone -- always a good thing.

So is meeting a man I fell in love with for the right reasons, who's also good to my children, and who happens to be a sports buff too ... well, that's a pretty great bonus!  I'm grateful that what Jaden has learned from his soon-to-be stepdad (something I couldn't crack the code for despite my good efforts) is now something he can teach and share with his other Dad that helps bond them together, too.  A seamless twist of events reminding me everything always falls into place ... Go Steelers!

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6 comments so far | Post a comment now
Karen Gordon February 1, 2009, 8:20 PM

Wow, what a lucky little boy to have a Mom who puts so much thought and effort into what he needs. Go Steelers!

Shiva Rose February 1, 2009, 8:29 PM

I don’t know the first thing about football and if I had a son I’m not sure what I would do. I love all the effort Ryan made in supporting Jaden’s talent. I’m inspired to get out of my ‘comfort zone”!
Shiva Rose

AVF February 1, 2009, 10:07 PM

I don’t get football either, however what I do understand is being a divorced mother with a son. hats off ryan well done ! Jaden has a loving enthusiastic mom. Go Ryan !

Fran Lasker February 2, 2009, 12:53 AM

What an extraordinary effort and what an extraordinary mom move. If I had a son I don’t think I would be able to compete, playing with dolls, art projects I can abide by, football???? I admire Ryan’s devotion. She deserves a “heisman”

ally b. February 2, 2009, 7:55 PM

Ryan is an inspiration to woman everywhere. walking through a divorce with two children and making sure her son didn’t lose out on any key ingredients to being a little boy. i can feel the bond that they all have.
- Ally b.

Tatyana September 5, 2009, 6:21 AM

Give please. My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.
I am from Namibia and now study English, give please true I wrote the following sentence: “choose your own gift mastercard.”

Thanks ;-). Tatyana.

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