Before I met my husband I had dated a man named Allen who loved football! If I wanted us to spend time together, I could forget it when a football game was on. So, I joined him. As he sat on the couch, like Al Bundy with his one hand in his pants (don’t you love visuals? :-)), I would sit next to him pretending to enjoy the game of football, but in reality I had no idea what I was watching, and only cared about the time I was spending with Allen.
I had forgotten about Allen until one Monday night, when I had discovered just how big Marcus’ passion for the game of football was. I was trying to get Marcus’ attention, but nothing was working. He just wanted me to leave him alone so he could watch his game. It was then that I recalled how I was able to get Allen’s attention; this is when I had my ‘if you can’t beat him, join him’ moment. I knew that even if I were to walk in front of the TV with a negligee on (Remember that commercial? I’m the one who gave them that idea), he wasn’t going to move away from that TV. So, instead of losing my husband to football, I joined him. I began to learn the game, the difference between offense and defense, how each team got a first down, etc. I actually learned to enjoy the game! When my girlfriends would harass me over why I was getting into football so much, I explained it to them on their level. Where else can you watch a bunch of young men, in tight pants as to expose every tight muscle they had, while making my husband happy at the same time? I think after my analogy the NFL had a lot more fans! Years later, I enjoy watching a football game even if my husband isn’t around.
When my stepsons had signed up for football, my husband was so excited that he was going to watch his own sons on the field! The excitement soon subsided once he discovered that there would be a bunch of games he wouldn’t be able to watch. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a job where he could rearrange his schedule to accommodate things like this. As a matter of fact, at this point in our marriage, he was working two jobs. He had to provide child support and health insurance for his kids, as well as try to keep our own home afloat. I knew how disappointed he was. He didn’t even need to tell me how much it upset him. He could always make sure he was in front of the TV for a Monday night game, but not being able to make his schedule so he could watch his own sons made him feel like a bad father. Yep, the sad face was all over him! I tried to encourage him, letting him know that he was doing the best he could for his boys. It helped, and he decided to focus on the times when he could be there.
Thanks to my mom capturing every moment of my life on film, I adopted the ‘go nowhere without your camera’ philosophy. (At one point I wanted to be the photographer for National Geographic, but something about going into the ends of the world, for weeks at a time, wasn’t conducive in raising a family.) So, with camera in hand we went to their football games together. I started off taking snap pictures of the boys. It took me awhile to learn how to capture them and not the grass! One time my youngest stepson had made a touchdown, he asked if he could see it because he thought I was videotaping. When I saw the look of disappointment, I knew then that I was changing from a photographer to a videographer.
The week came that Marcus was not going to be able to be at the game. I prayed about it, thought about it and approached him with the idea of me going to the football games to video tape for him. That way when he did get home from work, he could watch it on the TV while he ate his dinner, as though he was there himself. At first he was very apprehensive; he didn’t want me exposed to the biological moms. He wasn’t sure how I would be treated without him being there. Although at times unavoidable, he has always done his best to protect me from all the chaos. I assured him that I would be ok, and decided to try it out. After all, I was their stepmom. I was another fan for them, I wanted them to get all the cheers they could get, plus I wanted to capture every moment of their success!
I have to admit I was very intimidated the first time I was alone at my oldest stepson’s game. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be treated. When his mother had noticed I was there without Marcus, she asked me where he was. I had explained that he was at work and I was there to videotape for him, she seemed to be very understanding. We kept our distance and I videotaped a terrific game. Afterward my stepson came over, gave me a half of a hug (which for him was huge!) and thanked me for coming to his game. I really appreciated that! I went home thankful that it didn’t go so bad. I knew that I had made the right choice by going on behalf of my husband, which was just confirmed when I was able to see how happy he was while watching the game film. Years have passed and I am happy to report that we all tailgate together before his varsity football games. We come together for a common goal, to support our son and his team.
I wish I could say going to my youngest stepson’s first game alone was just as easy. His mom was, and continues to be, the one who makes things more complicated than needs to be. As soon as she saw me there she gave me the look of “who do you think you are being here at MY son’s game” while giving me the glare and once over. I just smiled and walked right on by her with my head held high. It was a public place; I had every right to be there. If Grandmas & Grandpas, Aunts & Uncles, and neighbors & friends could watch the game, then as his stepmom I knew I had every right-if not more-to be there. I didn’t need to have a biological son on the team to be there. I had a stepson on the team; I had the right to participate in his journey. More importantly, I had a husband who was looking forward to watching his son play football, so no one was going to stop me from helping make that happen. I was so proud of my stepson; he had such a terrific game! I was cheering so loud the people in China were telling me to be quiet! Unfortunately, after his game was over I was ignored. No ‘thank you’ for coming to the game. No hug, no goodbye. Nothing, as if I didn’t exist. Although it hurt my feelings a lot, I didn’t let it affect me in front of my husband. I knew if he found out how hard it was for me, then he wouldn’t want me to go back by myself. I enjoyed him watching those replays. In the midst of all the craziness, that was one thing I knew that could make him smile.
To this day, I continue to capture all the success both of my stepsons have on the field. If my husband is with me I capture more candid photos and video tape less. When he isn’t I would videotape the whole time. I enjoy capturing those moments, especially when the boys come over for visitation and they want to watch themselves playing on the TV. I enjoy reflecting on those memories I have of my husband and his two sons sitting on the couch together, talking about certain plays. Marcus would critique them saying “tuck the ball tighter” or “take their knees out”. Although I thought he was being too tough on the boys, they seemed to enjoy being coached by their dad. They are EXCELLENT football players now, and I know it’s because they listened to what their dad was saying.
About five years ago, I started turning their game footage into highlight films. This is a painstaking process of editing, trimming, timing, etc. I add music, videos, pictures, etc. It’s not something that can be done in days or hours, it takes weeks. It is worth every single second because I know that both of my stepsons enjoy watching themselves on video. Thankfully my videotaping has improved throughout the years. I am now able to catch an 80 yd. KOR on tape without it going from the sky to the grass to the player. Our oldest is a senior in high school. The videos that I have made have helped get him recruited to earn a football scholarship to play for a Division I school. I feel that my videotaping helped, in a small way, to get his exposure to all of the colleges that were looking at him. I am doing the same thing for our junior, so I hope that he will have some of the same opportunities offered to him.
I have continued to tape these games, even when, at times, I felt very uncomfortable doing so. As a stepmom, you have A LOT of uncomfortable moments. If I had chosen back then to not expose myself to it, I know that I would not have the tough skin I have now. Who knew going to a football game would help me to develop tough skin back then? God knew, and it has helped a lot considering all the other difficult situations I have had to go through. If I would’ve stopped going to the games because I felt uncomfortable, I honestly believe I would’ve backed out of a lot of things that have been uncomfortable in this stepmom journey—and in life. I chose and choose to put my feelings aside, if that means my husband will have many more memories to reflect on.
Although football was what started me capturing the kids’ moments, I have since gone to every single event I knew of that any of my stepchildren were involved in, whether my husband could make it or not. They will only be little once, I want to capture as much of them as I can! I refuse to allow the world to tell me where I do and don’t belong as a stepmom. When I said “I do” to my husband, I also said “I do” to his children. I am not going to sit down and wait for the world to catch up on ‘what are the exact rights of a stepparent’. I am a wife of a husband who wants to be VERY much a part of his children’s lives; if that means me showing up on his behalf, that’s what I will continue to do. Plus, in a way I also do it because I am selfish. My husband has a beautiful smile that I enjoy looking at. Every time I show him a picture, or video of his children, that gorgeous smile comes out and I get to enjoy it! I call it the 2-for-1 special.
Tonight will be my oldest stepson’s last home football game ever. I have held back the tears, but as I write this I am overcome with emotion and the tears are flowing. There is such pride that comes along with your stepson making a game changing interception and hearing his name being called over the loud-speaker! As he is running the ball back, I can hear the crowd cheering him on, while I am capturing every second on film. As soon as the play is over, I always look at my husband afterwards. The smile on his face is more than a Kodak moment. It’s more than any kind of MasterCard priceless moment. It’s even more than my Jerry McGuire moment I had when I met him. It’s something so hard to explain. It’s as if I can see his heart pumping out of his chest with excitement and pride. To know that tonight is the last night it will ever happen, on our home turf, is a pill I am not ready to swallow. Perhaps it wouldn’t affect me so much if my husband hadn’t told me that he cried his last game of his senior year. He said that it hurt so bad to know that he would never play on the field, or with his teammates, ever again. It hurts me to know that our son will have to deal with those same emotions. It pains me to know I won’t see that look of pride on my husband’s face ever again, in this setting. We have always tried to look at each child individually, so even though we have a junior that will, Lord willing, play on the same field next year, we feel the end near for our oldest. His last game will actually be next week, but it’s an away game. The atmosphere is different, something I think only a football parent can truly understand. Thankfully, he does have college football to look forward to, but that doesn’t replace the here and now. I am positive I will cry tonight, and after next week’s game I am sure I will ball the whole way home, but not before I videotape. 🙂
Christina Elliott married Marcus Elliott Sr, back in 1998, accepting the role of stepmom to his four children. One could say that only being 21 she had taken on a lot more that she knew; they would be right:) However, that still didn’t stop her from wanting her ‘own’ children, so a few years into the marriage she had a girl and a boy. During her spare time, she went to college and became a RN, all while trusting Jesus to help her through it all. The challenges have been MANY. The stress has been OVERWHELMING. Yet, her PRIDE in her family has been bigger than all of that. Join Christina as she shows you just how many hats she wears. Follow Christina on Twitter: @boomastepma.