The Glory of Being a 12th Mom

A mom of teen boys shares how being Seahawks football fans has strengthened her family's bond

It’s a scene I’ll never forget: Jermaine Kearse’s immaculate reception for a 35-yard overtime touchdown to give the Seattle Seahawks the 2015 NFC Championship. Actually, that’s what happened on TV before the part that will be even more memorable to me. My 13-year-old son, a ball of nervous energy, explodes from the couch, shrieks and smiles with his mouthful of braces, tears in his eyes and bear hugs me. Moi! 

Location, as the saying goes, is everything. I happened to be next to him on the couch and he may have shown the same enthusiasm to a fencepost. Still, I chose to revel in the moment, invisible confetti raining down on our gathering of family and friends. As a mother of three boys, two of them teenagers, often I am deciphering mumbling and grunts rather than sharing overflowing emotion.

Which is why this ride, this last few years of crazy-fun Seahawks success has been a blast. Or for those who are religiously inclined, a blessing. My sons are coming of age at a time when they see with their own eyes rather than hearing it from me that anything, anything can happen as long as there are a few ticks on the clock.  

The boys’ bedrooms are some combination of blue and green, walls decorated with a giant flag, Russell Wilson and other player posters, plus framed Seattle Times front pages proclaiming Super Tip!, Champs, and A City Salutes Seahawks, its Super Heroes from last year’s championship season.  Their beds are either loft beds or top bunks, Hawks Nests, if you will.

In a couple of years, my oldest son will be leaving that nest. We’re down to counting on one hand the number of family vacations we’ll take together before he graduates. So Sunday afternoons at game time when we’re all five in the same room and sharing a common experience … I decided I’d happily lean into the entertainment center for that.

As primary caregiver, I am often the taskmaster and the disciplinarian. I’ll admit I get so, so tired of nagging. But being 12th Mom has given me openings to be the parent who plays. With August training camps on weekdays, it’s been me who takes the kids to the VMAC knoll via the yellow school buses to spin for a trip to autograph alley, to see our favorite players as well as up-and-comers. In those Shutterfly albums I have yet to put together, it’s mom and her boys in the photos with coach Pete Carroll and punter Jon Ryan (make that punter and clutch touchdown tosser Jon Ryan).

Let me be clear, my own love of football is not forced. I grew up bleeding orange. I first felt heartbreak in 1978 when Craig Morton and the Denver Broncos lost Super Bowl XII to the Dallas Cowboys. I still get a little goofy at the Denver International Airport when we descend an escalator below John Elway’s picture. My bedroom was plastered with NFL helmet stickers, I could spew out the records of all 28 teams in the league and stats on most of the AFC players. My mom used to get so nervous watching games, she’d have to leave the room. But here’s what my family missed when I was growing up; that final piece of the puzzle, that collective elation. The Broncos didn’t win a Super Bowl until I was out of house and off at college.

After the Seahawks’ unforgettable Super Bowl smackdown (over my formerly beloved Broncos no less) and our adventure in frigid temperatures at to the victory parade, my sons have seen this year that bumps will indeed reappear in the road. Whether it’s losing at home to Dallas (the game my 15-year-old considers the worst), or the following week’s loss to the Rams to put the team at 3-3 (the game my 13-year-old had the hardest time with), at some point, a person or a team might bottom out, and at that point, it’s decision time. Where do you go from here? 

Football isn’t all we talk about in our house. But it’s the neutral zone where I can be free to just listen. I don’t need to judge, I don’t need to lecture, they are old enough to read for themselves about NFL controversies (see Deflate-gate) and the unsavory underbelly of the sport, from concussions to domestic abuse.

I’m not an apologist for professional sports. Still, thanks to beautiful timing by Coach Carroll and Seahawks general manager John Schneider, during these critical adolescent, relationship-forming years, my sons and I have had what parenting expert Laura Kastner, author of Wise-Minded Parenting calls “Swirl-In” conversations. Instead of tackling a topic head-on, I can kick-start it on the outer edges and swirl in to the main issue.

In the NFC championship game, after Russell Wilson had thrown his Hail-Luke to Luke Willson for the two-point conversion, our fan party was nervous. There was too much time on the clock and this was too reminiscent of what happened against Atlanta two years ago. But instead, we witnessed again a miracle more like last year: Richard Sherman’s fingertip poke to keep the ball away from San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree. Against all odds, our Seahawks were about to make an encore Super Bowl appearance.

There is one more chapter yet to be written. My husband and I wondered, if two game tickets fell into our lap, would we take them? Call me nuts, but I say no. It’s unlikely the Seahawks will keep going to the Super Bowl. But it’s a certainty that our sons will never again be this age, with our family having ridden the rollercoaster of this emotional season together. While there’s pride in being a “12,” there’s even more glory in being a 12th mom. 

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