Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rah! Rah! Rah!: Girls Play Football Too

Katie got her first piece of junk mail today. It's a flier from something called "Football & Cheerleading Club, Inc" advertising upcoming classes. It's addressed to Katherine Carleton specifically. Not even "To the Parents of" or "Occupant". So this is a targeted piece of advertising.

The flier has a hot pink background with white and green lettering. Even though the club mentions the word "football" in its name, none of the information is about how to sign up for football, just cheerleading. There are seven different locations spread throughout the county and four different dates for registrants to participate in these cheerleading classes. But no mention of how to register to play football. From the Football & Cheerleading Club, Inc.

Not that I want Katie to play football.

Unless I could wrap her little body in bubble wrap to keep from getting injured. But that's me and has nothing to do with her being a girl. I'd try to bubble-wrap my boy too if I had one. I try to bubble-wrap Katie before she climbs the playground equipment at the neighborhood park. I'd try to bubble-wrap her if she took a cheerleading class.

Not that Katie has ever asked to join a football team. But perhaps that's because she has never been offered.

Once at a family gathering Katie came crying to me from the back yard. Some boys told her she couldn't play with them.

"Why not?!" When anyone shows the slightest bit of animosity toward my child I overreact like I'm the manifestation of U.S. foreign policy.

"Because I'm a girl," she replied, looking down at her glittery, sparkly tennis shoe.


I assured her that it must be some misunderstanding. "Maybe they think you're too young to play with them. They're older boys, right?"

"No! There's a boy out there who is the same age as me!"

I went to investigate. "Hey, what's up, guys? Can Katie play with you?" I asked the group of about five or six 5-12 year old boys.

Everyone froze and was silent like I had just accused someone of something. The tallest boy finally spoke up, "Uh. We're playing football." He tossed the football a foot into the air and snatched it back quickly.

"Yeah? So what? Can Katie play with you too?" I had my hand on Katie's back.

"Well. Uh. We don't want her to get hurt." Tall boy said.

"Yeah, I don't want her to get hurt either. I don't want any of you to get hurt. So can she play with you?" I could feel my face turning red.

"Well, uh." Tall boy looked at his teammates for help.

"Let her play." I pressed on.

The littlest boy, the kid the same age as Katie, shouted from behind the taller boys, "She's a girl! Girls don't play football!" He laughed so hard he fell down.

"Yes they do!" I shoved Katie toward the group of boys. She ran with her arms outstretched, her coat unzipped and flapping in the breeze. She turned slightly to run around the tall boy to take her position toward the back with the smaller kids and I could see her face, beaming.

I stayed out and watched them all play until the game petered out. Katie never even handled the ball or acted like she wanted to. She mostly just ran around in cirles, laughing and tripping over her own two feet, then laughing even more. The littlest boy, the one who just a few minutes earlier argued that girls don't play football ran around with her, falling down and laughing.

After about ten minutes the bigger kids started complaining that their hands were cold and they wanted to go inside and get some hot cocoa. The litter kids followed, and soon it was just Katie and me in the back yard, tossing the football back and forth to each other, falling down and laughing.

Our breathless giggle fits reminded me of when I was Katie's age and my sister Kit would teach me dance routines she learned as a Pom-pon girl in high school. She wore these really neat black and white saddle oxfords with her squad uniform. She let me hold her pom-pons and I shook them and cheered, pretending I had on my own pair of black and white saddle oxfords.

If Katie wants to cheer, that's fine with me if we have the money for classes. If she wants to play football on a team, that's fine with me if we have the money to participate. We couldn't really afford either so it's a moot point. This flier will end up in the recycle bin.

Instead of cheering or playing football this summer I suspect Katie will spend most of her time like she did last summer, kicking around a soccer ball, riding her Disney Princess scooter, and making mud sculptures in our back yard. Her Buzz Lightyear costume worn underneath her dress-up bridal gown, grass and dirt stains on her sparkly shoes.