Some days were ugly. I have genuine faith in a big God, but faith doesn’t negate ugly. We had incredible support, but no amount of love negates ugly, either. Again, that’s called tension, and it’s allowed.
They were the first ones to run up to daddy after a game and after a loss they were the only ones who could put a smile on coach’s face. They were the first ones to run up to daddy after a game and after a loss they were the only ones who could put a smile on coach’s face.
Next, there is a time and a place for this conversation. It is not now, not after a game, no matter the outcome. It is not while his family, friends, colleagues, and community are watching. Not in the middle of the field or outside the locker room. Certainly not at the volume you are speaking; the time and the place is not now.
If my son grows up to become a man who is: loyal, hardworking, and spends his life serving others, just like his dad, what else could I ask for?
My kids aren’t leaving games wondering why their dad chooses this life. Football has been a part of their lives since birth. This is as natural and normal for them as going to school each day is. It’s just something we do.
My husband isn’t choosing football over us; we are choosing football with him. We are a football family.
For this reason, I do feel that I often have difficulty connecting with other coaches' wives who lament about traveling to games solo with children, getting up during the night to care for children, worrying about their children finishing their homework, making it to their own extracurricular activities, the list goes on. We all struggle, but the struggles look different and sometimes I feel there is an unbreakable barrier between us.
You never want to think, "What if I don't outlive my kid?" But recently, my husband and I did have that thought. And recently, we changed our wills to bequeath our child to another coaching family.
Now with four, seven and under we had a little time to experiment. For us this is what I’ve found works…
I hope you know in the depths of your soul that you will be okay wherever we go because we go together. We have been a part of a lot of different teams in your lifetime. But our family, this home team of five, will always be our first priority, our first love, and our home—no matter where it is.
You know what IS the best for them?
Working harder than everyone else.
Getting better just for the sake of being better than they were yesterday.
Learning to have hard conversations.
Staying late at practice.
Taking extra shots.
Running extra sprints.
Busting their tail in offseason.
I had parked myself right in front of a broken cistern. I'd fill it up, but all my joy and peace and compassion still seeped through the crevices and cracks, until it was once again empty. I would fill my tank up and only get a mile down the road before I was out of gas again. I wasn't filling it with living water; I was filling it with muck, sludge, and junk. It was broken. I was broken.
Not every kid has a team full of older siblings who care about what happened in school today or who will listen to the plot line of your most recent favorite Disney episode. You get to have them over for dinners or make them snack bags for the road. You get to make them signs, cheer them on, and even get a high five after the game. You get to travel and tailgate.
There are so many amazing things about the coaching life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But, as our sons get older, I’m learning to create space for them to flourish, and right now that means working a little harder at the “non-coaching” areas of life.
Dear Coach Daddy,
I know you worry about me.
I know you wonder if you’re doing alright at this Dad thing, if you’re gone too much, if you’re striking the perfect balance between work and family.
But I just want to tell you something, Daddy.
I love that you’re my dad.
I love running out onto the field after games and leaping into your arms, trying to catch my breath as you toss me up into the air, sure that I’ll hit the stadium lights from flying so high.
I love playing hide-and-go-seek in the field house and sneaking candy from the coaches’ stash and hiding under your desk as I try to unwrap it with my tiny little mouse-fingers.
I love running the bases after baseball games, up and down the court after basketball games, and into the end zone after football games.
I love the anticipation of a team dinner, getting to color pictures for “the boys” before a game, and waiting to give them high-fives after a win … or a loss.
I love watching you and telling everyone in the stands, “That’s my daddy.”
I love that I have a dozen big brothers (or sisters) who tickle me and give me hugs, who know my name and make me feel special because YOU’RE my dad.
They love me mostly because they love you.
And yes Daddy, I miss you sometimes.
But I see how hard you’re trying to be the best dad.
I see when you walk through the door and your eyes light up when you spot me sprinting your way, but your body is a half-second behind.
I see when we wrestle on the floor after dinner, and you let me pin you down a little easier every time, but we go another round anyway.
I see when your eyes grow heavy while you read me books, but you barely make it to the end just so you can tuck me into bed and kiss my forehead.
Someday, these will be my childhood memories. And I won’t want to trade them for anything in the world.
Someday, I’ll thank you for teaching me things, like determination and coachability and the difference between roughing the kicker and running into the kicker.
A couple of those things will come in handy in life.
I love you. And I’m so proud to call you Daddy.
You could lose every game you ever coach, and I’d still be your biggest fan.
I’m Always and Forever,
Your Coach’s Kid
But my Heavenly Father knew I needed this. He knew I needed to serve without receiving a “Good job” or a “Thank you so much.” I needed to perform without someone to impress. Without expectation of a compliment. He wanted me to learn to serve just for the sake of serving others and serving him, not self-serving.
As I write this, we are coming up for air from a two or three week rut.
Nothing huge forces us into the ditch. We just slowly lose our concentration and drift out of center, ignoring the rumble strips of silence and busyness. Sometimes we sit there for a while before either of us look up and recognize where we are. Sometimes one of us feels it before the other. Sometimes we both feel it but don’t put forth the energy we know it will require to get out of it.
I grew up in West Texas where every away game is a solid three-hour road trip through nothing but wide-open spaces. I played a lot of Mad Libs and M.A.S.H. in the backseat of my parents’ minivan (or the lesser-known, MASH IT, I = Igloo, T = Toilet).
Now, I get it. My kids are still little, so the only away game we usually can muster is the crosstown rivalry. Home games are hard enough as it is.
But every now and then, there will be a game we just can’t miss. Maybe a playoff game or a must-win game. And I get a wild hair and think maybe we can pull it off.
It hardly ever ends up well, but I’ve figured out a few tips and tricks along the way that have made the drives fairly smooth, dare I say even enjoyable. I won’t call my kids Road Warriors yet, especially after 10 PM, but they’ve certainly earned some stripes these last few years. I hope one or two of these are new to you!
PACK SNACKS IN INDIVIDUAL LUNCH BOXES FOR EACH CHILD
I used to just throw a bunch of snacks in the passenger seat by me and then hand them back when they wanted one. Now, I pack each child a lunch box with plenty of variety and make sure they know that’s all they get for the WHOLE trip, so don’t eat it all in the first 15 minutes (cough HAYES cough). This way, I’m not constantly digging through options to find that ONE THING they want and handing things back and forth. #safetyfirst
DOWNLOAD STORY PODCASTS TO YOUR PHONE
If you download a few stories to your phone before you leave, you can stream them through your car speakers. (You can also stream them without downloading them, but you’ll be using data.) Our favorites are Storynory, Stories Podcast, and Barefoot Books. Some we haven’t listened to (they seem to be for an older crowd than my three) but have heard good things about are Sherlock Holmes Adventures and The Thrilling Adventure Hour.
FOREGO THE PORTABLE DVD PLAYER FOR A TABLET
We are fairly strict about screen time but decided long ago that road trips and plane flights are not the places to give a crap. We invested in an iPad a few years ago and have probably recouped our money in the price of DVD purchases and rentals alone (my sister’s kids have a Kids’ Kindle Fire which is much more economical and they love it). For car rides, we bought an iPad holder that hooks onto the back of a headrest. The night before we head out, I download a few movies and TV shows for free from our Netflix or Prime accounts. They will be accessible without internet access for 48 hours once they start them.
KEEP A STASH OF ROAD TRIP TOYS AND BOOKS
My kids have about 10 toys they play with regularly. About 9 of those are baby dolls. So when I swipe a few toys from their toy buckets they are none the wiser. They also have a bajillion (give or take) books, so I have about 10 set aside in a box in my son’s closet. Before we leave for a trip, I will put all the recycled goodies into a small tub or backpack, then set it on the backseat floorboard or the console between the front two seats. It’s like Christmas! But free! Hallelujah!
CHECK OUT BOOKS ON TAPE/CDs FROM THE LIBRARY
Your local library should have a ton of awesome books on tape. This is a little different from the podcasts in that they are able to follow along with the actual book. I’ve never checked these out for road trips, only because I’m scared I’ll lose or ruin the book, but I have friends who are more responsible than me whose kids listen to them in the car. My kids, on the other hand, love music so I always check out CDs from the library with children’s songs (they have a TON) and since she-who-will-not-be-named stuck a few pennies in our CD player a few years ago, I have to download the songs to my computer and onto my phone. I have a whole playlist of kids’ songs now that my kids love.
BUY A NEW COLORING/ACTIVITY/DRAWING BOOK FOR EACH KID
They are typically around $1. I’ll grab one and put them in the front seat with a baggie of crayons/scissors/stickers for each child then hand them to them when they are buckled up. It’s amazing how long they will stay busy. Scissors will keep my kids entertained for days (or at least ten minutes) so I’ve just learned to deal with the teeny tiny scraps of paper that are covering the floorboard by the time we arrive.
GIVE THEM A MAP
Tired of your middle child asking “Are we almost there?” every 2.8 seconds? Just me? One of my best parenting decisions to date was to display our progress on the map on our dashboard. She understands that the red dot is us, the checkered flag is where we are going, and the red line is how we are getting there. Don’t have a map display on your dash? Pull up your progress on your phone. That way, they can track it without constantly asking. Plus, it’s educational! Win, win!
If y’all have any mom-hacks (or dad-hacks) that I missed, let me know! I’m always looking for new ways to keep them entertained.
**This post contains affiliate links. This basically means I write all the words, then figure out if I can link to any products I mentioned and make a dime or two (but not much more than that) off my unsolicited advertising.**