Angry and scared are the best ways to describe my 7-year-old son when I told him about his dentist appointment today. It’s not one of those biannual cleanings; it’s going to be an extraction. They are going to put a needle in his mouth, numb the area near the tooth, and pull out the tooth to make way for the tooth that impatiently emerged behind his baby tooth. You would think it was the end of the world at our house since a mean mom like myself has declared World War III on his mouth. Shots, needles and tooth extractions are big deals for little boys, so I had to reach into my mommy arsenal and give my son the strength to survive the dentist, but also teach him the importance of Keep Pounding.
It was a pep talk of sorts as I gathered him into my arms (he might be 7, but he’s still my baby), and told him the story of Sam Mills. At 5’9″ , Mills wasn’t as tall as my son’s favorite player Cam Newton and he wasn’t a first round draft pick either. He tried out several times unsuccessfully for the NFL and Canadian Football League. His determination to play football was not squelched by these setbacks, but rather propelled to keep trying. Mills was finally picked up by the Philadelphia Stars in the United States Football League. Once again, Mills had to prove that an undersized linebacker could get the job done. Mills proved his worth when he helped his team win 2 league titles. The USFL disbanded, but with support from his coach, Mills transitioned to the NFL and played for the New Orleans Saints for nine years and was selected for the Pro Bowl five times. His determination paid off, and fighting spirit was always evident. He played for the first Carolina Panthers team in 1995 and the following two seasons. When he retired, he became a coach for the Panthers.
Although his football career held many adversities and obstacles, Mills biggest keep pounding moment came when he was diagnosed with cancer. Mills didn’t let his diagnosis keep him down instead he kept pounding through chemotherapy and coaching duties. His relentless spirit enabled him to keep his team motivated through his legendary speech that encouraged players to never give up and “Keep Pounding”. Sam Mills passed away in 2005, but his mantra to Keep Pounding lives on through the Carolina Panthers, and anyone that believes in themselves.
I got a little choked up when I told my son this story, but I was proud that my boy picked up his droopy lip and decided to bravely face the dentist. He did try to escape the dentist’s waiting room a few times, but when they called his name he grabbed my hand and as we walked back to the chair, I whispered in his ear, Keep Pounding.
Turns out my son needed four teeth extracted. The Novocaine shot was the scariest, but while waiting for the medicine to take effect, he pulled one tooth on his own. I just love my crazy, brave boy!
How do you motivate your kids in scary situations?
You can learn more about the Keep Pounding initiative at the Carolina Panthers site.