Mom goes above and beyond the call of duty

LORI CLINCH Are We There Yet?

When our boys were little, they used to hold my hand on the way to their sporting events.

My presence was not only welcome at their contests, it was crucial. They wanted me at their practices and in the bleachers during their games. No sitting in the car and honking for me. No sirree, my boys wanted me front and center where I could be clearly seen and utilized.

They welcomed my feedback and they valued my input. They shouted out “Hey Mom, look at me!” and were even known to wave to me from third base.

As they aged, I was banned from practices and became all but invisible as I sat in the stands during the games. I was allowed to holler, but not too loud. Heaven forbid that I was loud enough that the other players find out that my son had a mother.

Oh, the humiliation. My invisibility became complete during the onset of high school football, where the coaches wear the pants and rule the nest. No time for hugs and kisses there, by golly. The boys don’t need me when their very own coach is walking the field, blowing his whistles and shouting out, “You’ve got one job men – that’s to catch the ball!” and demands with wisdom, “You’ve got to win the kicking game!”

It goes without saying that a mother’s presence is not appreciated at those practices. We aren’t welcome during the drills or in the water line. In fact, my boys instructed me right from the get-go that mothers are never, ever, no matter what- EVER, to run out on the field screaming, “Get off my baby, you big baboon!”

I had no problem with that. I didn’t need to sweat and play and participate in their little sporting event. My kicking game is fine, and I never really needed to drive the ball up the field anyway.

Then one fine and bright football afternoon, the phone rang. “Mrs. Clinch?” the coach said in a worried voice on the other end, “I’ve been unable to reach your sister. Her boy hurt his knee and she might want to have him looked at. Could you come and pick him up?”

Without so much as a second thought, I loaded my younger children, tossed in my purse and headed off to the school. The coach was waiting under the goal post and insisted that I pull right out onto the practice field. With his right forearm extended and his left hand waving me in, he guided me through the football players who were all stopping to take a gander.

As footballs were being snapped and whistles were being blown, the team paused to stare. I couldn’t help but feel like a new prisoner in the courtyard. But rather than feel inferior, rather than suffer humility, I did the only thing I could do: I rolled down my window and offered up a greeting. As I crossed through the path of the punting team, I smiled as if I had every right to be there and I waved at the onlookers as if I was in a parade.

I smiled at the wide receivers, waved happily to the fullbacks and offered a thumbs-up to the tight end.

“Hey, Brian,” I yelled to one young man as I slowly passed, “how’s your throwing arm? John, are you drinking enough water? Craig, how’s your mom? Will you tell her I said hello?”

I then picked up my nephew in the end zone, flipped a u-turn about mid-field and proceeded to slowly make my way back across the long stretch of grass. It wasn’t until I was almost in the end zone that I saw my own tall and handsome son. Was he smiling at me, you might ask? Was he waving happily at his mother? Did he seem proud? Oh, shoot no. Humiliated is what he was, and it was written all over his face.

“You should have seen her,” he was telling his father later that evening, “you would have thought she was running for congress.”

“Lori,” my husband sneered. It was obvious he was baffled at the thought of a mother on a football field – and in the family sedan, no less. “What were you thinking?”

“The football coach is the one who asked me to drive out there.”

“Yes,” my son protested, “but did you have to work the crowd?”

“I couldn’t help myself, I felt like part of the team.”

“Part of the team? You looked like a nut in a car.”

He could chastise me if he wanted to, but they needed me at that practice. After all, I gave a whole new meaning to driving up the field.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her at www.loriclinch. com.