NFL Parenting: Scramble and a Hail Mary

Because I’m married to a sports junkie, oftentimes, when I turn on the car radio, I am immersed in conversations about Peyton Manning, where he’ll sign next; or Albert Haynesworth, how he’s colossally let down the Redskins (and Patriots, and Titans. . .).  It’s a lot of sports, a lot of the time, but I like it.  Thom Loverro, the co-host of the ESPN radio program, The Sports Fix, has this scratchy, high-pitched, irresistible voice—he’s a helium-breathing Teddy Bear—and I can’t get enough of him, even when he’s slamming on my Phillies. 

Professional athletes are subjected to obvious, intense scrutiny.  To sweepingly generalize, they are bazillionaires so I don’t feel sorry for them.   But while I was listening to sports radio the other day, I conjured a hideous day dream: that I, a professional mother-of-two, was the topic of discussion. 

It went a little like this:

Tom Loverro: I mean, come on.  Really??   You think Katie Lenehan deserves a contract extension??

Kevin Sheehan:  I think we need to give her a break here.

Tom Loverro: A break?  How much of a disappointment is she?  I mean, how far down do you have to go on the list of most wasted potential and talent.  How far??

Kevin Sheehan: Ok.  Not far, I’ll admit.  She’s a bad mom.

Tom Loverro: A BAD mom.  She’s the WORST.

The conversation would continue.  Loverro would spew statistics—percentage of dinosaur chicken meals over home-cooked meals during the last season; how many art projects attempted vs. completed.  Fantasy Football goons would call in to smack-talk and commiserate with Sheehan who picked me for his team and couldn’t trade me. 

The thing is I joined the National Mom League in decent shape.  I come from a line of good mothers, so the training was there.  And when I only had my first child, Caroline, I played hard and tough.  Seventeen months later, however, little Lexi came along, and somehow I landed on Injured Reserve for fracturing multiple good intentions.

For instance, when I only had Caroline, we listened to kiddie sing-along songs in the car, like Wheels on the Bus and I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.  When I only had Caroline, we ate organic everything. 

Lexi sings Toby Keith’s Red Solo Cup at high volume.  Her first words were “Chick-Fil-A.”

When I only had Caroline, we attended classes at My Gym, Maryland Hall, and Music Together. 

Lexi goes to Target.

When I only had Caroline, our pediatrician told us what he wished for all first-time parents: that we would treat our first child as if she were our third.  What he meant by this, of course, was that we should relax, be easy on ourselves and our kid.  These days, in the morning, after Caroline has left for kindergarten, I allow Lexi to watch episodes of My Little Pony while I clean the kitchen and down coffee like it is Gatorade.  I take our pediatrician’s advice too far: I parent as if I have no children. 

I’m kidding, obviously.   Apparently that’s what lastborns do.  People (probably firstborns) study this stuff.  Lastborns share certain characteristics: creativity, humor, persistence, lower self esteem.  (No baby pictures of me exist—not a one—but that’s okay because lastborns are optimistic.)  Some famous lastborns: Stephen Colbert, Mark Twain, Goldie Hawn.

And yes, firstborns are generally confident and organized.  They become presidents and astronauts.  Some famous firstborns: Oprah Winfrey, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein.

My fear is because of my glom-on first-time parenting approach, Caroline’s going to be a lifelong people-pleasing perfectionist . . . unless Lexi rubs off on her a bit.  I was all over Caroline when she was a baby.  For whatever reason, I have always given Lexi more room.   Smarter defense in football terms, right?  If I get too close, they’ll blow right by me.  I am learning…

As much as Loverro, Sheehan, and I like to highlight my weaknesses, I know I’m doing alright as a parent.   My girls are fine.  In fact, they’re wonderful.  I hope I am blessed enough to see how all of this plays out.  What choices will each daughter make: what career, what spouse, what place on the map? 

I’ll plan on landing a second career in broadcasting after my playing-with-my-kids days are over.  I’ll buy a home in West Palm Beach, one in Telluride, so my grandkids will have cool places to visit on school breaks.

And as for all this birth-order mumbo-jumbo: Peyton Manning’s a middle child. 

I understand his little brother’s also had some success on the football field.