The Adventures Of Fatherhood – February 10, 2023

It’s amazing when life comes full circle, especially so when the swings are unexpected.

It’s how we pivot and handle the abrupt winds of change that defines us. It’s a message we repeated to Beckett, 14, over the last month.

One year ago, I would have never imagined my teenage son attending boarding school 200 miles from home. As of a few weeks ago, it was implausible to imagine a scenario where the same kid would be back at his former school one mile from home. Yet this is where we are today and how fast things have changed.

Over the course of the last month, especially with an application deadline for next year nearing, we noticed some things change with Beckett about boarding school. He was still positive about the new school generally, but we saw undeniable differences in his demeanor on each drive back to school. He seemed conflicted, but he would not say what was going on. A typical teen, he was being aloof and guarded. Little did we know he was contemplating whether he wanted to continue for the second half of this year, let alone return next year.

When I learned on two weeks ago, he was ready to come back home, I was not happy initially. Finish what was started seems appropriate but forcing something on him when it was no longer right was wrong, too. While we were packing up his dorm room at his home away from home since last August, he asked me about returning to his former school, Worcester Prep. I encouraged him to focus on making sure we got everything packed up rather than talking about next steps at that moment.

Over the last couple weeks, I have been impressed with Beckett’s resilience and ability to adapt. He has been working hard at his new/old school and doing well at home as we all adjust to our house and heart being full again.

Since he has been home a bit now, there has been some time to reflect on the rollercoaster ride he has taken on of late. A post on a Raising Teens site summed it well, saying, Things I’ve Learned Parenting A Teen Boy … “They’re far more sensitive than they’d ever admit. They won’t outwardly ask for it, but they need your hugs, back rubs and high fives. Your best conversations will happen in the car or late at night. They need to know you trust and respect them. They need room to make mistakes. Food will always put a smile on their face. Space and privacy are important to them. They care deeply and want to please you. Your steadfast love makes them feel stronger and more empowered.”

I think in many ways Beckett has a newfound appreciation for us as his parents based on his experience away at boarding school and seems grateful for the love, support, acceptance, and flexibility. He has said several times he was happy he went away to school because he learned a lot. I can see near the top of that list is the value of home.

I wish I could bottle up the feeling I have after coaching my son’s special needs soccer program.

TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer) is a recreational sports program for children and adults with intellectual, emotional, or physical disabilities that is offered only through local USYS-affiliated soccer clubs. Offered through River Soccer Club, TOPSoccer provides participants ages 4-18 with an opportunity to play soccer in a uniquely structured environment that is safe, fun, supportive and inclusive, matching the kids with volunteer buddies who assist them and bond with them.

My family’s involvement began initially as parents with Carson playing in the program after his big brother’s recreation or travel games. Over the last nine years, we have become more involved and now I coach the program and Pam helps in a major way as a volunteer. Carson is a player in the program and Beckett has for the last couple years been a buddy with participants.

Based on the nature of the varying disabilities and interest levels, I have a simple goal as the volunteer coach – to get the kids active and exercising while having fun. Seeing these kids smiling while running and laughing with their buddies brings tremendous joy to my life currently. If they kick a soccer ball a few times, it’s a plus.

The practices are structured and follow the same general routine of drills depending on the kids ages. There was a time when I sweated filling the time, but I have learned parents are happy when they see their kids happy and enjoying themselves without their involvement.

Last week during the “big game,” which is how we wrap up each practice session, it was hilarious to watch Carson – who is now taller than his mom – pull Pam from one end of the court to the other. He still insists on holding her hand even though he’s more than capable of playing on his own. I couldn’t help but smile and soak in the moment. Carson shot the ball hard, turned around before it even went in the goal and ran back with his mom. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Beckett chasing after another participant who was following a rolling ball under the bleachers. A friend’s kid was doing the same thing across the way.

We end each session with a victory arch where we invite the parents down to the court or field to extend their arms up and join hands to form a long archway. We then let the participants run through celebrating them. It’s a special thing.

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.