Balancing Football and Fatherhood

Tips for the football addict this Super Bowl Sunday

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Calling all dads! With the Super Bowl approaching, are you wondering how you’re going to squeeze in watching the game with your daddy duties? Two dads have found the balance. Here are their tips for enjoying this Sunday’s game, and the many football seasons to follow.

Confession of a Football Addict

You’ve probably heard of the “soccer mom.” Well, I am a football dad. And for me, and thousands like me, this is a sacred time of year. The Super Bowl is upon us. I need a moment… . You’ll have to excuse me if I get more than a little emotional right about now. It’s just that it’s such a special time. 

OK, I can continue.

Yes, I am an admitted NFL-addict dad, and yes, I have been known to get a little misty-eyed the closer we get to the Super Bowl. I grew up in Los Angeles and have fond memories of sitting in the stands at the coliseum with my dad, watching the Rams in a playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings. Joe Namath came off the bench in a last-ditch effort to win the game. I was 11, it was pouring down rain, the Rams lost, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Today, I’m 38 and still a bona-fide NFL super-fan. But I also have a new, equally powerful addiction—my 2-year-old daughter, Jesse. Herein lies my dilemma: How does a dad such as myself, with only so many hours available on the weekends, continue his football habit and be the kind of dad I want to be—one who’s available for my daughter during some of her most critical years?

Well, let me tell you, it has not been easy. The fact is they don’t sell a patch that you can stick on your arm to quell the cold sweats and tremors associated with a “cold-turkey” NFL cessation—at least I couldn’t find one. So now, football season requires some creativity on my part to fulfill my role as toddler-dad, and stave off any football addiction withdrawal.

The Weaning Process

Fortunately for me, I had a head start. My wife began to wean me off of football before my daughter was ever born. She never quite embraced my Sunday, nine-hour-long, Barcalounger marathons in front of the living room electronic grid-iron. So after several negotiations, I agreed to cut back—slowly, mind you—to one game per Sunday. But Monday night football was, of course, off limits.

Then after my daughter was born, more drastic cuts were necessary. I’d watch the last quarter of two games Sunday and the second half of Monday night. But that was two seasons ago, when my daughter was still crawling.

This season began when my daughter was 22 months old. She’s 2 now, and about as mobile and destructive as any NFL running back. As a result, I pretty much wrote off the regular season. I would sneak in a quarter here or there, but for the most part, I decided there would be more time in the yard on Sundays kicking around her soccer ball, more time coloring on the rug, more time gluing shapes onto construction paper, and less time glued to the games.

During the playoffs, however, even the most devoted fathers among us are bound to give in to the cravings associated with a Sunday battle over a spot at the “big dance” the first week of February. First, let me say to you that there is a way to be there for the action and be there for your toddler.

Football and Toddler Time

First of all, consider that football, of all professional sports, is the most dad friendly. There is only about 30 to 40 minutes of actual “action” during a football game. The rest of the time is commercials and time-outs and regrouping for the next play. So this is what I did during the first weekend of the playoffs: First, I filled the living room with baby toys and coloring books. I sat down with her and we played. On came the TV and the game. We colored, we chatted, we put her little farm animals in a row, the way she likes to. We did all the things we love to do together, but for about 15 seconds of every minute, my eyes were on the game.

It was a win-win situation, not counting the team I was rooting for. I maximized the in-between-plays time and spent it with my daughter. She didn’t care much for the game, but I’m working on that. Green construction paper makes for a great football field, and footballs are shapes too, you know.

More Football-Tackling Tips

  1. Reserve the Time: If you truly consider Sunday football your oxygen and want to be able to watch uninterrupted and unbothered, you can always simply ask your partner if she’d mind you having that time to yourself away from everyone, kids included. Understand that, though this is a simple option, it isn’t the one I recommend. If you do decide to go this route, it’s important to recognize two things: First, the request is a bold one, to put it lightly. Second, you’d better be prepared to offer something in return, like all-day Saturday care-giving while she goes for a manicure or pedicure.
  2.  Snuggle Up: If you thought taking in an NFL game was enjoyable before, try it with your toddler stretched out across you. Instead of making football watching private Daddy time, turn it into special time just for you and your little one. Remember to make your child an active participant in the game rather than a passive recipient of your comments. Try to play simple guessing games as a way of teaching. Predict whether the guy with the ball is going to run with it or throw it to someone else. Guess which numbers will be on the scoreboard next time it’s shown.
  3.  Call the Ticket Office: Sure, watching the game with your little champ is fun, but taking him out to the gridiron live will be unforgettable. There are a couple important things to remember when undertaking this trip. First, it requires a bit more planning than you’re used to. Instead of just making sure you have the requisite refreshment money and giant foam No. 1 finger, you’re going to need a few other items, like finger foods, bottles or sippy cups, diapers, and a few favorite toys and books. And consider using a baby carrier at the game. The baby will be perfectly happy just to hang out on your chest even as you’re hollering at the coach about his offensive scheme. Just try not to spill your soft drink on Baby’s head. And you might want to avoid games in Buffalo or Green Bay in February.
  4. Take It Outside: Buy a mini football at some point before next Sunday. When Sunday arrives, watch 30 minutes of an NFL game. Then turn off the TV, grab the mini football, take your toddler outside, and play catch with him for 30 minutes. Tackle him, roll around on the grass, throw him up and down in the air, teach him how to place his hands along the laces, and take turns snapping the ball to each other using funny counts.

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