Parenting: Football as Bonding Time

September 23, 2010

We spend our Friday nights or Saturday afternoons from August through November in the stands at Lower Merion High School football games. I spend my spare time from August until mid-September compiling the Football Boosters adbook. And on Sundays, you can find all the Buckman Boys (hubby included) on the couch, in front of the TV, watching the Eagles.

This year, my husband even bought official penalty flags for everyone to throw when they see fit (whether the refs on the field agree or not).

Nine-year-old Micah understands nuances of the game that I've never been able to master. A couple of years ago, he showed no interest in the games. Now, it's like he's absorbed it all through osmosis or something.

At first, I thought all this football watching was a waste of time (I get some of my best shopping done while they're all on the couch screaming at Andy Reid and the guys). But I've come to see it differently the past few years.

We have two teenage boys. Just about anyone who has teenagers, especially boys, knows how uncommunicative they can be sometimes. But something happens when they and my husband are cheering the same touchdown - or groaning at the same fumble. They actually talk a bit. Maybe a play on the field sparks a story about one of their teammates or friends. Or they recall another game they were watching, and who they were watching with, and the stories start coming out. They can sit for hours - two teenagers, a man in his 40s, and a nine-year-old - together. It gives them something in common. And it seems the Buckman Boys aren't alone.

A man names Bob Andelman wrote a whole book called "Why Men Watch Football." He gives a lot of reasons, including the closeness men felt with their own fathers that came from watching football together, the fact that football allows men to get their aggression out - but in a way that's not chaotic and that has rules, and the fact (as I noticed with my guys) that football gives men something to talk about. In the end, he concludes that watching football together is good for guys, writing, "Watching football is good medicine for some of what ails the modern man. It's an inexpensive form of regular weekly psychotherapy, available to millions of men, without an appointment, on weekends every fall."

I don't think too many parenting books have chapters on watching football as a method of promoting Father-Son bonding but if I were to write a playbook for Dads, I think I'd include it.

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