The Adventures Of Fatherhood – September 16, 2022

All seems to be going well one month into my older son’s boarding school experience.

As for Pam and me, we are adjusting to our new normal. Weird is the only way I can describe life nowadays. I miss Beckett, 14, but it’s different than I thought I would feel. I am not sad. It’s just a massive change. I still walk into his room at least once a day thinking he will be in there talking to friends, playing video games, doing handstands on his bed trying to put his feet on the ceiling and playing drums or the keyboard.

We are heading to Virginia Beach tonight to watch his school team play a soccer game. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour drive but we are used to it from years of travel soccer tournaments and games outside the area.

I think back on those travel soccer days — mixed in with black belt training — and do not miss all the running. Every single night there was something to do. Family dinners never occurred because of all the juggling. I do not miss the chaos, although memories came with the experiences.

Sometimes I wonder if the youth travel sports route was the way to go at a young age. I am mixed about it. On one hand, lots was learned about teamwork and improvement was seen in the sport. On the flip side, burnout is a real thing, and I think it hit him about the sixth grade once school demands increased. I saw a change in his attitude, especially when we forced him to finish a season when he was done halfway through. Many kids Beckett grew up with playing soccer don’t play anymore despite being talented. Surfing and skateboarding are preferred in some cases or just video gaming, working or clubs. The running around probably got them as well.

Pam and I both remarked this week how odd it was to be home at 7 p.m. together on a Tuesday. It never happened a few years ago. Miss the experiences but not the juggling.

An article on caught my attention this week on this topic. Written by Christine Carter, the piece shares some interesting perspectives. I’m not quite as nostalgic about the youth sports days as she is but her points are compelling.

It is hard when this parenting season ends. 

… This crazy, stressful, and exciting life of being a sports parent will eventually finish. The reality of this end of an era will hit hard, and you’ll feel the swell of sadness and maybe a little relief as you think through all the details of what this means for your life. … Whatever the case, life will be so very different for both of you.

… You’ll reflect on your life that was always jam-packed with busy schedules where your kid’s sport took up tons of your time. You will remember feeling exhausted from long days and stressed from fitting in all in and spent from weekends of travel.

And you’ll wonder what you will do with all those free nights and weekends, now that you won’t spend them at countless competitions and events?

It all went by so fast, as you supported your kid through all their training and hard work while they grew up doing something they love.

… You’ll remember the endless rides you gave, and all the carpools too, taking your kid to every practice and meeting and special event and program, until they could finally drive themselves.

No more idling in parking lots, waiting for your kid to come out, or getting up before dawn to take them to early-morning workouts.

… No more long-distance travels, your car packed with overnight bags, coolers of drinks, and tons of snacks.

No more venturing out in the rain, sleet, snow, or the sweltering sun to show up for your kid. No more dressing in layers of winter gear or slathering sunblock to withstand the harsh conditions for hours and sometimes days of competitions.

There will be no more sports fees, uniforms and costumes to buy, and spending on gas and hotels. No more ticket purchases for every season and fundraising donations–and you can’t imagine the money you will save.

You won’t have to work all the volunteer jobs, prepare team meals, or show up at all the program’s activities and mandatory meetings too. Your calendar will be empty of all the things sports parents do, and you wonder what you’ll do with all that free time you’ll have now.

… You’re so grateful for all they experienced, however long their sports career was. You just want your kid to be happy, whatever they choose to do. This is how life goes as a parent: we love what they love. And this is how our kids grow up and learn who they are and discover their strengths and passions.

As our kids get older, they start paving their own path they want to follow, and there are many off-ramps to take until they discover the perfect road to travel.

And we are still there for it all, still cheering them on along the way.

No matter what sport or activity they’ve been involved in or for how long, closing this chapter of their life and turning the pages to see what comes next, is scary and exciting.

It’s okay for you to feel sad, too.

The days will be so different, and you both will have some adapting to do.

Being a parent of a teen athlete requires serious commitment and sacrifice, but you loved every minute of supporting your kid.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.