Asking the Crowd
Should I let my kid play football?
Sometimes the internet tells me about things it thinks I will like that I do not, in fact, go on to like. The Popeyes chicken sandwich is one such thing. I tried it, a couple of months ago when it first hit the New Orleans market, and it was … fine? I didn’t get the hype then, and I really don’t get it now. It wasn’t bad, but it definitely didn’t rock my world – and I love Popeyes.
But sometimes the internet tells me about things it thinks I will like that I very much go on to like, and one of those things is the Netflix series “Diagnosis.” Rare illness, medical mysteries, and the power of journalism? I LOVE ALL OF THOSE THINGS!!!
The catchphrase of “Diagnosis” seems to be, “Let’s ask the crowd,” by which it means “everybody on the internet.”
I like that idea, and I have a question I would like to ask the crowd.
Last Friday, I got an email from the head of school at Ruby’s school with the subject line, “An unusual question.”
The question was: Would Ruby be interested in playing middle school tackle football? And would I even be willing to ask her?
The problem was that the middle school didn’t have enough kids to field a team, and given Ruby’s roller derby cred, she wondered if Ruby might be just the kind of badass girl who’d like to join up and save the day. She couldn’t have been more gracious in the way she asked – and I still almost started crying.
Ruby’s sweet little brain, the one that I endured ninth months of vile fish oil pills to nourish in utero, sloshed all around in a football helmet! Of course I was going to say no.
But then I thought about how important it was for Ruby to play a role in making her own informed decisions, and I thought about everything she has gained from roller derby, which, it must be said, is not a gentle sport and is also one that could have risks for her precious brain.
So I texted a fellow derby parent. “Where do we draw the line?”
“No one can tell me that your kid isn’t as tough as a similar-sized 7th grade boy,” he wrote back. “Lines are rough. Let her draw it herself, with guidance.”
So I asked her.
“OK,” she said. “I’ll do it. Wait. No. Wait. Yes. Wait. Maybe? I don’t know.” After a moment of contemplation, she wailed, “I want to be a feminist! But I also want to just be a cheerleader!”
“You can be a feminist without playing football,” I said. “You can be a feminist who cheers. Feminism isn’t about having to do everything a boy or a man does. It’s just about having the choice. You have it, and it’s yours to make.”
“OK,” she said. “No.”
“Good,” I said, mostly relieved.
An hour later, she came out of her room with her stubborn face on.
“I changed my mind. I’ll do it. I want to.”
We still haven’t given a final answer, so now I’d like to ask the crowd.
I know all of the studies about how bad football is. I love to watch it, but I feel sort of guilty about it, and it turns my stomach when someone gets hurt. I can’t imagine that someone being my baby.
But I talked to the football coach at my school, and he said she won’t get hurt in four middle school games, in pads and protective gear, playing against other middle-schoolers. And it’s not like she’s looking at a career in the NFL or even the eighth grade.
What should we do? What would you do? Please help!