I am a widow from mid-August to early November. During this time, the wonderful hubs’ time and energy are consumed with cross country. He is the sole coach (and bus driver) of a co-ed sport. Anyone who has ever coached knows that the two hours a day of practice and the weekly (or more) competitions are not the only demands of a sport. There is paperwork, equipment hauling, stat-keeping and analyzing, and countless hours of strategizing, second-guessing, and re-strategizing. Even in XC, a sport where it’s pretty obvious who’s best and everybody gets the same amount of playing time (actually, the scrubs get more “playing time” than the studs!), there is the most fun part of coaching – kid drama and momma drama. So I’ve gotten used to taking a back seat to the sport for a few months every year. How can I complain? I coached volleyball for four years and Ryan was a real trooper, making supper most nights, coming to all my games, analyzing players with me and listening to me whine and cry about the stress and drama. Now it’s my turn to return the favor – not that he does
any much whining and crying.
Except, I do complain. Every year. Some worse than others. (Take, for example, the 2008 season, when we had a barely-one-year-old and a still-two-year-old and I stayed up late reading the Twilight series as an escape. At one point, I sobbed to Ryan, “I just wish you cherished me!” but that’s another story…) Or this year. Right now, our grass is up to HERE. There are probably 20 moldy Tupperware containers and pairs of socks (equally moldy) in the truck. I am greeted by fancy-free goats nearly every day, due to fence issues. I have taken on picking out Ryan’s clothes (actually kinda fun) and ironing them (actually not fun at all) and prepping the coffee maker each night to insure smoother mornings. I was watering the animals daily until we decided that arrangement was not good for our marriage (I’ve decided I’m not much of an animal person...) Supper has to be delayed until 6:30, which is not conducive to happy eighteen-month-olds. The great supper clean-up team effort has been thrown out the window. My man is usually asleep on the couch by 9:30 p.m. And when he’s awake, he’s a little more, shall we say, cantankerous, than normal. Nearly every Saturday is spent driving at least an hour, running around for four hours yelling at high school kids before I come home to yell at mine and try to catch up on all the grading, grocery shopping, and cleaning I don’t have time to do during the week. But it’s cool. Really.
There comes a time every season when we both wonder if it’s worth the stress it places on our family. But there’s always something that makes us agree that coaching is a calling for Ryan. He’s not only a good coach. He’s a mentor to those kids. Runners come back from college and tell him how much they learned from him. He gets mentioned in valedictorian speeches. One of his runners brought his girlfriend to visit us in the hospital after Calvin was born (they talked more about the meet that Ryan had missed than the baby I had just birthed, but whatevs). Parents comment on what a difference they see in their kid because of “Coach Layton.” He’s meant to do this, we decide.
This year’s realization came early. Saturday was the first meet the boys and I could make it to. We rocked our matching shirts and the bright red double-jogger stroller (Calvin only rode until we could safety-pin his too-big britches up, but I can’t bear to go back to a single stroller just yet…) I secretly enjoyed Ryan’s runners yelling, “Go, Mrs. Layton!” when we ran from spot to spot on the course. Then we hung out on a secluded part of the course and screamed our lungs out – even Max. We waved at Daddy as he ran around screaming his lungs out. Big kids played with the boys, calling them “Little Coach” and asking them if they were gonna be runners someday, too. Reed puffed up with pride and ran fast and loud everywhere he went. When the meet was over, they ran over to give Daddy a high five. Daddy obliged, then excused himself to comfort a crying runner. I watched him give her a pep talk, then an awkward half-pat on the shoulder, knowing he wanted her to know he cared without making her uncomfortable. She walked back looking much better. We followed the bus to McDonald’s and learned all the freshmen’s names. Reed and Calvin showed off their Happy Meal Transformers to high school kids, who acted impressed. Then we headed home, exhausted and sunburned, but also exhilarated. This isn’t just fun for Ryan. It’s fun for the whole fam! And I hope the athletes might see in us something that, sadly, many of them don’t see at home – a family that loves each other and makes sacrifices in order to serve God.
Ryan was home Saturday afternoon and most of the day Sunday. I took the boys to a birthday party and left him with some peace and quiet. I figured he could use the time to get caught up. When I came home, the lawn mowers hadn’t moved (in his defense, all four of them are broken, but that’s ANOTHER story…) and the truck was still littered with food and clothes. How had my husband spent his kid-free hours? Writing a personal note to each athlete.
I love that man!