Today’s blog is going to take on a different tone. I mostly write about what is going on in youth sports and connect it to the general health and well being of all involved. For those who have been following my blogs you are going to see introspection today. An event happened in our family’s life on Monday that literally stopped me from functioning as I normally do. Well I am not sure my family would say how I act and talk is normal, but once again as I tend to do, I digress.

                My son went off to college Monday. As I say that I want to make it clear that he moved about five miles away from home. Although I have set up rules for visits (once a month, and only for a few hours if HE wants to) I was struck by how much that event tore at my very being. We had talked as a family about how it was time for him to begin his journey of independence and self enlightenment. We had planned for this day and talked about it on more than one occasion.
                He has had his struggles. His senior year in high school was not filled with a tremendous interest in academics. As a 92% student he basically watched as his grades faltered. The grades got to the point where I chose to remove him from the varsity baseball team. Now let me say that I believe sports HELP students with their grades on most occasions. They keep the student focused and disciplined. But sometimes a decision has to be made to say this behavior is no longer acceptable and there are consequences, not excuses.
                He had shown an interest in the Coast Guard Academy and had attended their A.I.M. program in the summer and done quite well. He got all the way to the final interview, which the recruiter told us was the second best interview he had ever had with a perspective recruit. He had attended the Navy soccer camp and the coach had put in a word for Clayton with the Coast guard Academy soccer coach. And then it hit. He had Asthma as a child and when his medical report was red flagged he had to take another physical and an endurance test. He failed.
                We moved on from that and he enrolled in the local community college. This an option that many people push to the side for ego or status related prejudices, but I can assure you, these colleges, especially the one my son attended are a viable, valuable option. They also can save you a boat load of money to keep you and your family out of a huge college debt. His grades skyrocketed. I am not sure if he was humbled, I am not sure if he saw others there struggling and realized what a gift he had, or if he just figured out that it was time to get his butt in gear. When we walked about it, even he wasn’t sure what happened to flip the switch.
                 He has gotten numerous compliments were he has worked, and offers within the Country Club to advance and take other jobs. He has worked double shifts. He would caddy in the morning and then go right to work in the dining room after he was finished on the golf course. He showed a tremendous work ethic and made comments to us that showed he got the big picture. To say that I am proud of him would be a gross understatement.
                In the last year he has blossomed into an outstanding young man. His enthusiasm to get started on this new adventure was evident and supported fully by my wonderful wife and myself. It was time to go. He had new friends and different interest and as well as we got along you could see cracks started to form in the way we related to each other. As subtle as they were most of the time, they were clearly signs as to what was in Clayton’s best interest now and in the future.
                I was fine when we moved him in to the dorm and even as we said good bye at the car. Then as we drove away my wife turned to see him and the look on her face, and watching my son run up the steps to the dorm to catch a glimpse of us as we drove off hit me like a sledgehammer.
                 Holy crap. I started to have the same feelings that I had when my mother passed away three years ago this month. We were very close and I remember feeling these same thoughts now as I did then. I thought I was going to be the strong one for my wife and daughter, but as it turned out I was not much help in that area. For two days I moped around the house even going into his bedroom and sitting on his bed reflecting on the journey and process we had gone thought o get to this point. And I am here to tell you it wasn’t a pleasant time. But I realized that millions of parents had gone though this event and come out the other side o.k. but that was really lip service and didn’t help.AT ALL.
                Here’s what did help. It started last night as my wonderful daughter Molly asked if she could go to her high school and watch the varsity volleyball team play. She goes to an all girl’s school and is quite embedded in the journey there. This summer she has helped paint and redecorate a part of the school and went in early to help the new children coming to the school get acclimated to the surroundings, she has a big heart, just like her mother.
                This morning my daughter Molly started her senior year in high school. As we got started this morning, without Clayton, I saw the hope and anticipation in my daughter’s words and actions and it all started to get better for me. I realized that not only was this sadness I felt a natural response as I had been a stay at home dad for nine years after I retired from coaching, but that it was way more important to see this as a beginning for both of our children and to make sure I did not go out of my way to make this about me and my desire to keep our tight knit family together. This would only add negativity and guilt to a situation that was supposed to be a positive move for both our kids. It was time for both children to move on, spread their wings and fly. So today, the teacher was taught by the students.
                 It was not my job as a parent to be their friend as they grew up. And now, it was not my time to hold them back and lesson the thrill of their new adventure. I truly hope and pray that down the road as they start their own career and families that they will want to come back to see us, not feel an obligation to do so. Only time will tell.
                If we as parents had done our job properly this was the natural extension and conclusion to their upbringing on our home. We had taught them to be independent thinkers, thoughtful and compassionate people and to care for others as they do themselves. We stressed the importance of manners and a solid work ethic.
                 We wished for them a bright future and much happiness all the while explaining to them that life was not fair. They would see many things in their lives that they will question and hopefully we have helped them build a foundation of trust and honor that will serve them well now and in the future. We let them make mistakes as they grew up and provided them guidelines, and what I hope was wisdom to be able to decide and choose the path that best fits their dreams and ideals.
                I have said on many occasions when I speak to groups that in Psychology, there is one new case in ten million and this is not it when describing the problems facing youth sports and the people involved. It so important to let go and have the children learn at their own pace and time.
                 One of my favorite expressions is.”It’s not my job to determine, when, how, or even if the light goes on for those involved in youth sports, my job is to just keep flipping the switch.
                Clayton may your journey be filled with all the things life will brings you. It only then that you will be able to tell the difference from what is right and wrong for you. You will learn to embrace and appreciate the difference between selfishness and short sightedness and the need to be positive, think long term, and the importance of caring for others to give more that you receive. To Molly, well after this experience with your brother you can just stay at home with your mom and I FOREVER!!! (Just kidding….maybe)