Instantly, I’m brought back to my high school days, as my taste buds fondly reminisce, along with a growling stomach, I can envision a heaping plate of golden crispy tater tots, sprinkled with lots of salt and a mound of ketchup….yumo!! I can still taste them, can you? This past week tater tot took on a whole new meaning and now I’m left with a sour taste in my mouth. Let me back up.
Football picture night was upon us as Wyatt was proudly dressed in his uniform, picture slip in hand, jumped out of the car and ran to be with his fellow teammates as they patiently waited their turn. It didn’t matter than his jersey and socks were 16 sizes too big, he looked absolutely adorable. With a hint of motherly pride, I thought to myself, “Gosh, my boy is too cute!!” Quickly I was brought back to reality as I I heard, “Hey tater….what’s up TOT!” “How is TATER TOT ? Not sure who boy A was speaking to, I happened to glance over to Wyatt who appeared to be uncomfortable and squirming. To my disgust, Wyatt was now being called Tater Tot by a few other team mates. After witnessing Wyatt try to handle this on his own, (to no avail) mother bear kicked in- BIG TIME! As sweetly as I could muster (as I am not a fan of parents coming unglued on others children) I informed boy A to stop teasing. Nothing, it didn’t seem to register, two seconds later it continued. This time, not so sweetly, I reiterated my initial point. This time boy A got it. A few minutes passed and one of the coaches’ walks up to Wyatt pats him on the shoulders and says, “Hey Tater, what’s up?” UGG! REALLY?! Emma looked at Wyatt and then me and said, “Mama, why are they picking on brother, and what does tater mean?” You can only imagine my horror. I calmly maintained my composure and asked Wyatt if he wanted me to address this with his coaches. “No mom, it is SO embarrassing!” He marched off to practice, this time with his head down.
Please note, this is a big deal when you’re dealing with little boys, wanting to fit in, and not be the smallest one on the team. I certainly didn’t want to add fuel to the fire and embarrass my boy even more, so I waited to address this with the coaches. That night we discussed the pros and cons of being small. We brought out one of our favorite movies and watched Rudy. What better movie to address exactly what we were dealing with. A few years back, at the end of the movie Wyatt actually cried. We couldn’t believe it. He was profoundly moved by the story. As I tucked him into bed that night, Wyatt matter of factly informed me he would be quitting football after his first scrimmage, “no make that my first game.” I thought he was bluffing. We spent a great deal of time discussing what quitting meant. Sunday night arrived and as we prepared for bed he stated he no longer wanted to play football. Halleluiah! Aaron and I had been secretly praying for this day, as we really didn’t think he was ready for the commitment it entailed. None the less, we were sad for him, that it didn’t work out. His reasons for quitting: “not fun, the coaches never smile, they are always yelling at me, I never do anything right, they call me Tater Tot” Mind you, I had been to 75% of Wyatt’s practice, and in my absence, not once did my husband, father nor I ever feel the coaches were out of line. They are a bunch of dedicated men who are giving a tremendous amount of time and energy in coaching football. Getting 30 7-9 year olds to understand and play football (without severe injury) is no great feat. Football coaches are not singsongie, period. What I find interesting is Wyatt’s interpretation of mean. Tony Dungy emphasized the importance of having fun while playing the game of football- especially when coaching younger children. When I asked Wyatt if he had fun playing he said no. End of story. So much for football, maybe in a few years he’ll no longer be a tater tot. With any luck he will inherit his uncles’ height gene and be nearly 6 feet, although I highly doubt it. Maybe, just maybe, Wyatt will grow a bit more into his own, and someday like Rudy, be a force on and off the football field.