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Daddy's Little Football Player

We spent Friday morning at a park with a
friend, and I loaded up for the morning, as is my wont. I brought a
picnic lunch, a blanket, snacks galore, bubbles, chalk, a soccer
ball – and a football.

About half an hour into the playdate, Maddie expressed interest in
doing “something else”. I listed my supplies, and after
a brief round with the soccer ball she was ready for the football.
Her friend, Sam, was also game, so I took a few minutes to explain
the basics of the sport to them.

I should say here that while my daughter
is quite the girly-girl, she’s got a pretty decent sports
side to her, and she loves to play with her Daddy. They’ll
kick the soccer ball around for half an hour, until they’re
both winded and sweaty. Maddie also has a basic grasp of the
football concepts, as she will try to sit next to her daddy and
watch the Cowboys play with him. “C’mon, guys, try
passing for a change!” she’ll yell at the television in
a fair imitation of my husband.

But this is also the girl who begs to wear velvet just to
“make the day more special”, and who cried at school
when she fell and scraped her knee because she was afraid
she’d stained her skirt. So as I explained the game, I
wasn’t sure which girl was going to show up at the scrimmage

“Ok, Maddie, you stand here. Sam stands here and throws you
the ball. You catch it, run past Sam, and run all the way to that
tree way over there. That’s your goal; if you get there
before Sam can get you, you score a point. Sam, if you get her
first, she gets no point.”

Both kids nod and face off. Sam tosses the (regulation-sized, but
Nerf-filled) football at Maddie, who picks it up and tucks it
correctly under her arm and begins running. She deftly weaves
around Sam, leaving him in her dust, and picks up steam. Sam,
however, also has some moves in him, and that little kid can RUN.
Within twenty feet, he catches up with her, circles her waist in a
textbook tackle, slides down to her feet, and trips her to the

There’s a moment of silence as the moms stare at the scene,
and the two kids lying on the ground. I’d had some nebulous
idea in my mind that it’d be TOUCH football, but hadn’t
bothered to articulate that idea, and didn’t know how Maddie
would go with this. Was the playdate over?

“Hey! You tackled me! No goal,” she exclaimed, bouncing
up. “My turn to throw.”

Huh. Ok, playdate not over.

For the next several minutes, my kid had GAME. She threw, she ran,
she dodged, she tackled. Every time she reached her goal she
swelled with pride, fists planted on her waist and chest puffed
out. “Hey, good one, Maddie!” Sam yelled every time,
and Maddie would nod sagely as if to say, Yes, indeed, that was a
good one, and thanks for noticing.

Cora was not completely absent – she made a wonderful
floating defensive lineman, since her idea of a good time was to
chase whoever was running. But it was Maddie who really got into
it, and a couple of times even a good tackle didn’t keep her
down – she just popped back up and started running again.

And she never fumbled the ball.

We packed up to go home, Maddie chatting the whole time about
football and how fun it’d been and how she couldn’t
wait to play it with Daddy. Was this a new page in Maddie’s
book? Is she now one of those I-can-take-it kind of girls, who can
hang with the guys and isn’t afraid of a bit of dirt or

“Hey, you fastened my car seat too tight! It’s pinching
me and will leave a mark on my leg, and it’s wrinkling my
shorts!” Maddie whined.

New page, same story.


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