Let the games begin.

Wednesday marks exactly 13 years since the nurses brought a tiny little boy stuffed into a Christmas stocking into my wife’s hospital room.

It was a really hard day for me. I had to get up early and never got to leave the hospital all day. It wasn’t fun at all. The chairs were really uncomfortable.

My wife had two epidurals and a long day of labor culminated in a caesarean section. Her day was almost as tough as mine.

I’ve been a parent for 13 years. But now, I am the parent of a teen. I have coached teens. I have covered teens in sports for a quarter of a century.

I have seen parents do a good job and I have learned lessons from those who didn’t.

For years I imagined what it would be like to cover my own son’s sporting events. That doesn’t look like it will happen. Blake likes sports, but he doesn’t love them. He enjoys soccer and basketball but he hasn’t ever found a game that made him want to spend hours practicing to refine his skills. He plays games for fun.

Blake’s loves include more artistic endeavors. He will spend weeks on drama performances, band practice or even robotics competitions.

I can’t say I ever dreamed of having a son like Blake, but I am really proud of the kid he is.

One of the things I appreciate about him is his huge heart. He is a big kid for a brand new teenager at almost 5’7”. The last few seasons of soccer have been played on teams with kids as young as eight. Blake had fun as the team’s unofficial big brother, but his kindness was even noticed by parents and coaches on other teams. If he ever accidentally knocked another child down or hit them with a kick, he always stopped playing to check on them. There was even one time when the referee was telling the kids to keep playing but Blake stopped the game anyway to make sure his smaller opponent wasn’t hurt. I like it that he cares more about the other kids than winning.

The last year has been good for me as well because Blake became my workout partner. We walk to a gym near our home and play racquetball and work out several times a week. Having uninterrupted time with him during this time in his life is important to me and he seems to like it too.

But one of my favorite things about Blake is his sense of humor. He loves comics like Jim Gaffigan and can quote many of his routines. But Blake is always working on his own material.

This weekend, he got to play a sport he had never tried before. It is called futsal. It is basically indoor soccer played with a weighted ball. It is great for the development of soccer skills.

It was odd for me because I am used to coaching my kids’ teams. It is rare that I am stuck on a sideline watching a sport whose rules I don’t even know. I was yelling for Blake to break the rules all day.

The games didn’t go so well for their team. Both opponents featured older, more talented girls who outplayed Blake’s all-boy team.

Blake got to play goalkeeper in the second game and got hit in the legs, hands and even the face by a weighted ball. He tried hard and had fun but he paid the price.

After the game, he hit us with one of the jokes he makes up that he would call a “dad joke” if I told it.

“Man, those girls were ruthless,” Blake said about the second team they played.

“Really?” his mom asked.

“Yeah,” he laughed. “None of them were named Ruth.”

I know it is wishful thinking, but if the worst we get from his teenage years is face palm worthy jokes, I’ll take it.

Anytime the boys bother me, I remind them “this is why I never wanted kids.”

Blake always says, “But you’re glad to have us now.”

He’s right.

We’re all entering a new phase in life now. Blake is a teenager and we are parents of a teen. Hopefully, we can all figure this thing out together and have a few more laughs along the way.