Waiting to Exhale...


Basketball season began three weeks before Christopher was turning seven years old. He would be playing with a group of kids ranging from ages seven to nine. Despite being the youngest, he more than fit in when it came to size. Christopher is 54 inches tall and seventy-five pounds. I saw the coaches eyes light up when we arrived for the first practice. I wanted to say, “Don’t get too excited” but I didn’t. I did whisper something along the lines of, “He is very inexperienced”.  I reminded the coach that Christopher was turning seven in a few weeks. Hopefully he remembered and had a little sympathy when Christopher (baby bear) cried at the first, second and third practice.

It was so painful to watch. Not because he was “inexperienced” but because he looks so much like me that I can read him.  It is like looking in the mirror. I could tell when he was getting frustrated and I knew when to look down because eye contact would not have helped matters any. My mom and are in tune like that. I can look at her and she can read that something is wrong. I’ll already be crying before she can ask, “What’s the matter?”

Lucky for me, not Christopher, my husband happened to be there for the practices when Christopher cried. I didn’t have to play tug of war with my heart. I said, “La la la” in my head to muffle the sounds of, “Big boys don’t cry”. I stay out of that part. But believe me, Mama Bear will roar at Papa Bear if he makes baby bear feel worse.

Tomorrow is the 5th game of the season. I don’t know how many practices there have been, but  I am breathing easier now. One game I felt like I was holding my breath for all the boys on the team. The coach’s son plays on the team and he is a little Michael Jordan in the making. The kid is awesome. Yet his father (the coach) is very hard on him. I hold my breath for him too while thinking, I am so glad I am not that kids mother, and that the coach is not my husband. The coach and I wouldn’t make it as a team. That said, the coach is awesome too. I've just wanted to ROAR in his direction a few times. Christopher is only seven and I believe I’ll always be one of those silent moms holding my breath the whole time. I’d almost rather not be there. Just tell me how it went and I’ll be proud and say so regardless of the outcome.

Tonight’s practice was two hours instead of one.  The coach wanted the boys to scrimmage the older boys. He said it would boost their confidence for the game tomorrow. He was right! I looked at Christopher and could tell when he was bored waiting for his turn to play. I could see when he was excited. I could feel when he was proud of himself.  That’s all I care about. Whatever he does, I want him to enjoy doing it.

At the end of practice the coach says, “Christopher is strong!” He complimented Christopher’s defense on a boy that was nearly 150 pounds. I proudly said, “Well he’s half that”, wanting to share the story of having a ten pound baby. Not the time, place or person. Coach then said, “He’s got potential.” I beamed.

When we got in the car Christopher said, “Practice rocked!” He said, “I think one kid can take down that whole team tomorrow.” I asked, “Which one?” Assuming he was going to say the coach’s son, he said, “Me!” Maybe I won’t hold my breath tomorrow and I can enjoy the game. When baby bear is happy mama bear is happy.

Here’s the thing…I might as well start working on exhaling and cheering. We've got many many years of sports to go. I'll work on that this Sunday when I sit down to watch the 4th quarter of football.  

Kenya G. Johnson