Every Friday night, my social media feeds are flooded with pictures declaring empowering victories or crushing losses. I don't need the pictures, though, because I've just left the scene myself.
After a rousing speech, coach releases the players to go and change. But before they do, they've got to grab the ever-important pictures.
There's the towering giant of a young man with sweaty, tousled helmet hair reflecting the stadium lights standing next to a beaming mom and dad.
There's the broad-shouldered kid clutching his helmet with an arm of fresh bruises knelt down next to a proud sibling.
There's the quarterback leaving a local press interview after a quick picture with his girlfriend as their friends hassle them because… well… high school love.
There are children everywhere trying to grab the attention of those high school football boys they see as heroes.
I turn to see the coaches grabbing all the trappings of the night to take back to the field house or the bus. The head coach is being interviewed by all the local media. The coaches' families are scattered across the field, tossing footballs, running off the sugar they've consumed from the concession stand that has kept them energized all game, talking to their friends, and making plans to meet up in just a bit because it's the weekend.
The one that gets me every single time, though, are those tiny little babes rushing just as fast as they can across the field to find Coach Daddy. Their eyes are obviously tired, and they will likely be monsters the next day, but they stayed up just to storm the field looking for dad.
And for everyone involved, it's worth it.
Just last year, I couldn't help but watch that scene play out for others and feel a tiny bit of jealousy. My babies were staying the night at their grandparent's house because they just couldn't handle it yet. They couldn't stay up three hours past bedtime for that hug or push through the exhaustion the next day. It had been at least 24 hours since those babies got a hug from Coach Daddy. Still, they waited.
It wasn't our turn yet.
It wasn't our turn to rush the field, to get the hugs, take the sleepy Friday Night Lights pictures, to throw the football, to chase down the heroes of the gridiron.
In fact, in some ways, it's still not our turn.
I can't watch a full game without running to the bathroom so that someone doesn't have an accident. I can't go a quarter without having to give cuddles or separate a sibling fight. I can't just sit at the game and watch because I'm making sure my two-year-old isn't eating concessions off the bleachers and my four-year-old doesn't fall down the bleachers.
It's a small miracle if we make it to an away game because the thought of loading up half the house for the road trip didn't make me want to curl into a ball.
But when it's not your turn yet, just do what I did.
Feel all those feelings. Remember the reason you want your kids to experience this so bad is because this is the thing your husband (and you) have given endless hours. It's an important part of your family's life, and it goes far beyond football.
You also want your babies to see their dad doing what he does best: impacting lives in real, practical ways. Because when your babies do storm that field, those football players have their stinky, sweaty embraces at the ready.
Then, remind yourself that in as a little as a year - which seems like a world away right now - the story can be different. The days go fast. And one day, you'll look forward to when they're the heroes of the gridiron. But you'll also wish you could still wrap them in your arms in the middle of the third quarter because, at least there, that baby is protected, and someone isn't trying to run right through him.
And be in the moment, fully present. Let those babies go to the first quarter and scream, "Go, Daddy!" even when he can't hear it. Let them wave and wear the "Coach's Kid" shirts. Then, take them home and tuck them in as they retell all of their fun adventures at the football game. Let yourself find joy in those quick moments.
And when it's not your turn, remember that one day, it will be. Soon enough, you'll be able to flood social media with your own pictures of half-asleep toddlers and exhausted Coach Daddy.