It was my son's first football practice and the couch was teaching simple plays. "Before we run this, does everyone understand the combination?"
Every boy muttered "yeah", except the kid who hollered, "Yes Sir."
Then everything stopped. They all looked over at the one with the long brown hair, the one in the orange shorts. My kid. And I was watching, thinking "Good job, Son."
But the couch said, "My name's not Sir, you call me Coach."
And my boy said, "Yes Sir."
No... No... No...
I wanted to scream STOP! Press PAUSE. Then rewind. All the years teaching a boy from Southern California to say "Yes, Sir" has felt like an exercise in futility. Swimming upstream. "Yes Sir" doesn't belong here on the left coast, and everyone seems to know it but me.
At the grocery store my son is given a lollipop, because even football players like lollipops, and I guide him, "Thank you, Ma'me." But he echos awkwardly, "Thank you..." And I give him that look as he pops the sucker into him mouth. But who's the sucker? Well apparently he was yesterday on the football field.
But he took it in stride, looking up at me in the bleachers with a shrug, like an "I told you so." And I shrugged back, like an "I don't care..." Because "Yes Sir" is music to my ears. And I've always loved music that wasn't main stream. Celtic fiddles and movie soundtracks. I admit that I don't know your top 10 on the music charts, and I'm okay teaching my children to be a little antiquated too.
I'm guessing he doesn't say "Yes Sir" all the time. I'm anticipating that he'll rebel altogether for a while. But like most of the good stuff we learn young, like brownie batter tasting best from the inside of the mixing bowl, "Yes Sir" will stick somewhere down deep.
I don't want to lay the law down hard, and make polite, respectful words distasteful by nagging him. So I coach him quietly, off the field, though his coach on the field undoes it in a moment. And I laugh with my son and ruffle his sweaty hair and tell him straight, "If you ever play football for the University of Texas, you'd better be ready to call your coach 'Sir.'"
And he shrugs again like he knows better. So I let it be.
But I have to tell you here and now, Yes Sir, just might be my 2 favorite words.
For more of my favorites, visit me here.