I went to a small college that didn’t have a football team. So when I met my boyfriend (now husband), an alum of a big football university, I was able to experience that electrifying level of school spirit that surfaces when 60,000 people scream at everyone and everything between two goal posts.
My spot in the bleachers wasn’t automatic; I had to pay my dues. As a new girlfriend I was always eager to go to the games but rarely got an invitation. As a more tenured girlfriend I was offered the extra ticket a couple of times during the season. As a live-in girlfriend and then wife I had first dibs and went to most home games with him. There were times he actually expressed disappointment if I chose NOT to go. As a new mother, traveling 3 hours to watch football was at the bottom of my priority list. Now, as parents of a toddler, we’re excited to make football a family experience.
This weekend we took Junior to his first game. We were a little apprehensive knowing how fidgety and distracted a 2 year old can be, but we decided to throw caution to the wind and give it a shot. What’s the worst that could happen? We said to each other that we’d just pack him up and leave if it became disastrous. So we grabbed his jersey and some tailgating necessities and made our way. We spent the night in a crappy hotel about 45 minutes away so the morning of game day wouldn’t be so hectic.
We met up with some friends and their son who is a tad older than Junior. They became fast friends and had a blast running around the tailgate touching things they weren’t supposed to. It was follow-the-leader to the highest degree, with them taking turns playing leader. We’d prepped Junior on all of the cool stuff he would see – the mascot, the band, the hot dogs. As we were herding our way into the stadium he caught the eye of some drunk college girls behind us and they attempted to teach him some chants and cheers. We got to our seats, not an empty spot as far as the eye could see. I was hoping for at least a little bit of wiggle room…
So there he was, my pint sized football fan perched atop his dad’s shoulders, mesmerized by the crowd, the noise, and the Thomas the Train toy he had with him. There was certainly some squirming and whining, but for the most part he was an absolute champ. When the boys got squirrely we passed them around for a change of scenery. The older couple in front of us certainly got kicked a few times, but all of the people around us were beyond patient and actually quite complimentary of their behavior. By the end of the 3rd quarter the kids had been confined long enough, so the other mama and I took the boys back to the tailgate while the dads finished the game. The walk back was far less hectic and crowded than the walk there, so we let them run loose. They probably had a thousand times more fun walking back to the tailgate than they did at the game.
I had a blast with him, and I know his dad was so happy to share that experience with him. A group of my husband’s good friends from high school happened to be in town for the game as well, so I offered to stay home with Junior so he could hang out with the guys. He said no way – he was taking Junior to his first football game. My how things have changed… Tailgates certainly have a different feel now that there are little ones running around. On the way home after the game, Junior comatose in the back seat after his busy day, I told my husband that I didn’t really mind our G-rated pregame. But I think they’re more tiring; chasing a 2 year old versus sitting in a chair and drinking? You decide…
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