Grunt Work

My mom reminds me of an offensive lineman in the NFL.

Now before you start to write me hate mail for calling my mom a fat, hairy beast of a 350-lb monster, just hear me out. And yes, if you’re wondering, I’m about to talk about parenting by using football as an example. I’ve done it before and this won’t be the last time, so just listen.

There are 11 players who compete for each team during a game. Ask a random person on the street which positions they can name, and I’ll bet you quarterback is the first one. The quarterback is what I call a “glory” position. The QB touches the ball on every play and directs the offense. He is widely considered the most important player on the field, and as such he is revered. He throws the arcing spirals to win the game and is the first to get all the credit when things are going well.

Hell, the rules of the game are designed so that no one can hit the QB very hard.

But not many casual fans think about why a successful QB can be so good. The answer is that a QB is only as good as his offensive line. Offensive linemen are the worker bees of the NFL. Their only job is to protect the QB and do all the grunt work. While the QB is being lavished with praise for throwing the winning touchdown, the linemen are often face down in the mud after fending off enormous defensive players and giving the QB enough time to get the throw off. The QB is nothing without good protection from his linemen.

I was reminded of this on Friday when MJ and I had the rare occasion of picking Will up at school together.

MJ has to leave for work right when Will is waking up. She packs his lunch for school, but getting him up, dressed and driven to school is up to me. I deal with Will not wanting to put on his coat everyday. I deal with his teachers about school news and I’m the point person when there are issues with Will. And I navigate Will’s tears when he doesn’t want to be left at school if he’s having a bad day.

And then, at the end of the day, I’m the one picking him up because MJ doesn’t get home from work until late. That means I gather his things, drive him home, feed the dog, make dinner and clean up the house before MJ gets home. I’m not complaining, just giving you a lay of the land.

So when MJ and I walked into school together Friday to pick him up, I figured he’d be excited to see us both because that never happens and MJ rarely gets to pick him up at school.

We walked in, watched him play for a bit and then called over to him. His face contorted with pure joy and his smile grew ridiculously wide as his eyes darted furiously from me to MJ. He bounded toward us with his arms outstretched, and I savored the sweet moment of the anticipated family hug that would make everyone else in the room make the “Awwwww” noise you only hear in contrived sitcoms. I was ready. Bring on the love.

“MAMMMMMMMAAAAAAAA!!!”

Huh? Mama?? MAMA?!?!?!

That little bastard ran right past me like I didn’t even exist, and straight into MJ’s arms. I knelt there with my arms open wide — looking like an idiot waiting for a hug that wasn’t coming — while the whole room gave MJ and Will an “Awwwww.” My “Awwwww!”

And suddenly I felt like MJ was the QB who swooped in at the last minute for the win, despite my day-in and day-out lineman-esque battles in the trenches taking care of Will. She’s celebrating in the end zone while I’m bleeding on the field after clearing a path to victory. Totally not fair.

And that’s when I thought of my mom, and suddenly felt very, very guilty.

My mom did EVERYTHING for my brother and I growing up. My dad was so busy with work that we seldom saw him. But my mom stayed at home with us when we were young. And even when we went to school she was the bus driver. She was a classroom volunteer, a chaperone for field trips and she drove the bus to every single one of my away games all the way through high school.

But because it was so rare that we saw my dad, whenever he could make it to a game it was this huge deal. I’d try to play extra hard when my dad was in the stands because it could be weeks until he’d have time to make another game. I never understood how my mom — who religiously attended everything we ever did as kids — must have felt to see me get so amped up over my dad being there, yet completely take her presence for granted day after day.

Well mom, now I know.

We’re linemen. We’re dirty, we’re ugly and we work our asses off every single day. The only time anyone notices linemen is when they’ve done something wrong and the QB gets sacked. If we’re doing a good job no one says a word.

So to all the linemen parents out there who go unappreciated on a daily basis just to watch others get all the glory, consider this your heartfelt thanks and brief moment in the sun. And remember that even though you’re not getting the credit you deserve, the work you’re doing is the foundation for all future successes.

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9 thoughts on “Grunt Work

  1. As a fellow lineman, thank you. I am a divorced mother of 3. My ex is always included in the kiddos activities and events, but he rarely takes us up on the invites. Which is also part of the reason we are now divorced. BUT, all that being said, when he does decide to show up, for my kids it’s like Christmas, birthday, Easter and Halloween all wrapped up in one giant present. Pisses me off to no end.

    Then I remember this. I still get to hug my kids EVERY day. I still get to talk to them EVERY day. I get the joy and pain of BEING there, no matter what. So in the end, I get their complete and total trust, because they know where I am and that I’ll always be there. They can’t say the same thing about their dad. So I’ll let him take the excitement of the big moment, and I’ll take the joys (and pains) of the little memories. It’s so worth it.

  2. A fitting tribute – all we quarterbacks can do is ocassionally buy the linemen dinner, tell them how much we appreciate them, and them try to get them into commercials with us. But we’d be toast without them.

  3. I am the lineman. I guess I could complain, but why? I’ve been able to be with the girls on a more consistent basis and haven’t missed many “moments” in their lives. As they get older and ready to leave the nest, I realize how lucky I was and am. The Mister had to work to support us and missed some of those moments. He’s been part quarterback and part lineman, but all around loving Dad.

    Your son will remember (maybe with a little help)and cherish the times you spent together, especially when he grows up and has little ones of his own.

    Now, I have to go apologize to my mom.

  4. This analogy brings up the teamwork aspect in parenting. Everyone on the field needs to have the same game plan. Everyone needs to fit in their position and be ready to switch positions at any moment like Mr. Troy Brown.
    So when are you growing the Matt Light beard? My offensive line won’t let me!

  5. Interesting analogy, I guess my widowed mom was the Quarterback who was left to scramble for her life. Good thing she had great speed, endurance and mental fortitude to get the job done. Afterall the lineman was in the mud(literally).

  6. Good for you taking the time to tell you Mom thanks. I’m sure she appreciates it. My wife definitely does all the hard work. I don’t know that I am the QB but she certainly makes my life easier by doing the dirty work. Great analogy.

  7. currently my hubby has this job, but I try to thank my offensive lineman everyday because I know it will eventually come back to being my turn to be the lineman and I know it can be a mostly thankless job. Although the extra hugs are nice!

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