|We can't beat this team, so we're joining them.|
My hands are cold this time of year. The days are dark and short but feel long—cooped up with three restless children. The wind howls.
And I become a basketball widow.
My husband’s schedule as an independent school athletic director keeps him busy enough, even when he’s not coaching. But when his girls’ varsity basketball season begins in November, Jeff is hardly ever around. Over the past few weekends, I had to text him updates about our sick children while he coached his team and hosted tournaments. Several nights, Jeff sauntered in after I’d already cleaned up the vomit, nebulized the kids, and settled them into their fitful slumbers.
I was recently trying to find a date when we could catch up with some friends we haven’t seen in forever. I noticed that Dec. 22 was open. “I’m actually going to be at a tournament that weekend,” Jeff said—“in North Carolina.” Preoccupied with basketball, my husband forgot to mention his interstate travel.
I do value that as an educator and coach, Jeff is helping shape the youth of today who will lead us tomorrow. In the warmer months, the idea of his coaching basketball—which Jeff is so passionate about, which is one of the main reasons he entered education—even seems rosy and bright. But my husband clocks investment banker hours without the year-end bonus. And because he's an administrator, Jeff works summers and tacks on evening open gyms to his July/August schedule. So come basketball season—come the biting reality of winter with three antsy kids and no husband—I find that no matter how hard I try to feign support, I grow bitter. The fact that Jeff's school’s mascot is a kangaroo doesn’t exactly bolster my enthusiasm.
For instance, after the kids were already asleep the other evening, I slumped reading, and recovering, in bed. Jeff popped in, tired but excited.
“We just had a really good practice,” he gushed, shedding his “Roos” shirt.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said.
I’m starting to suspect that our children share my sentiments.
“You’re going to school with daddy to watch some basketball,” I told our son at breakfast last Saturday.
“Noooooo!” he cried.
And when I brought our three kids to Jeff’s game one evening, his head of school had the misfortune to settle into the bleachers in front of us. “Can we go yet?” Georgia, 6, kept wailing. Our 2-year-old kicked the headmaster's tweed blazer throughout the entire third period, at the conclusion of which Jeff's boss turned to me and said, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” Mortified, I gave his comment the most forgiving interpretation.
And because I'm spent from manning our kids right now without Jeff's aid, I find it hard to indulge his disappointments. For instance, when Jeff called from North Carolina to say they’d lost their first game, 63-60—dipping their record to 7 and 3—I turned the subject to other matters.
“Where are you staying?”
“Quality Inn,” he murmured.
“Better check the mattress,” I said.
After all, I can barely handle being a basketball widow, much less one with a bad case of bedbugs. I could cope with a few more wins, however. I think Georgia agrees.
When Jeff called on his way to a game the other night, Georgia said, “I hope daddy comes home with a—with a—”
“With a ‘W’?” I prompted.
“Yeah, I don’t want him to come home with an ‘L’.”
Me neither, Georgia. Me neither.
But a league title would be welcome, as would a stab at the state private school playoffs. And Jeff returned from North Carolina last night, his team having won their second game against a tiny Baptist school “powerhouse.” My husband even has Christmas Eve and Christmas off.
So we’ve decided to take Jeff’s headmaster’s advice. We’re joining the team. We’re inking signs that say, “Go Roos!”