As I watched his car turn the corner, stuffed to the max with three suitcases, box full of bedding, and of course his new laptop and X-Box One… I could not believe how quickly time had passed. Each of his sisters had sent him off with a gift to remember them by. Of course, he wouldn’t forget them, but the thought was so sweet. His younger brother put up a better front, turning his hug into a headlock. He, of course, held it together because he does not want them to see him cry, but I knew it was hard on him. A new door was opening and he was ready to see what this new chapter had in store for him.
C.S. Lewis once said, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different”. I can still remember, after 27 hours of labor, screaming a few swear words at the nurse when she repeatedly kept telling me to concentrate on my breathing(which does not work). After several hours of pain and tears, I just wanted him out. I should have realized then that this sweet little baby boy was going to be just as difficult as he grew older. I blame him for my first gray hairs. However, I would love to go back and do it all over again.
Zach has always been active in all kinds of sports, but the one constant (his first love) has been football. He first started with flag football and was one of the smallest on the team. The one thing he had going for him was his speed. Even at the age of 10, he was running circles around others. However, trying to play football when you are small is a tough task. After flag came tackle football through our local rec center. Again he was still the smallest little guy on the team and could only play one position due to his weight. He played for the Bears and the uniform hung on him. Poor kid could barely hold his head up with the helmet on, yet he managed to play, and his determination was very inspiring. Now, I am not the type of mom that worries about her “baby” getting tackled. There were times he would tell me to not yell so loud because he could hear me on the field. Secretly I think he liked it but had to put up a tough guy front.
Once he hit middle school, he had hoped to be bigger but was still the smallest on the team. Back then they divided into lightweights and heavyweights. He was of course the first. Even then, I swear, some of the schools they played had kids who had flunked the 8th grade, because they looked huge compared to him and some even had facial hair. Fast forward through freshman and sophomore years – Zach worked hard, lifted constantly, and ran often. Even with his smaller stature, he could out run any defender put in front of him. The worst part about varsity football in high school is the politics – meaning that even though he had proved himself several times and very rarely messed up… the ball would end up in someone else’s hands. He never gave up, frustrated yes, but continued to work hard and push himself…. giving up on his dream was not a choice.
His last year of football had so many ups and downs and created some turmoil between Zach and his coach. Instead of encouragement he was faced with favoritism and skepticism, yet he still pushed forward. Don’t get me wrong… he played a lot. He executed great blocking, fast responses, and caught the ball over 90% of the time. Enough to get him noticed by Division III college recruiters. His best moment happened during their very last game under the lights – he caught a 70 yard touchdown with such ease, paying respects to his grandfather in Heaven when he reached the end zone. I screamed louder than I ever have. A fellow parent reached over and touched my shoulder and said “that will be the one he remembers”. I was so proud and sad at the same time; it was the last game on the field he had called home for 4 years. Many of the senior players he shared the field with had been playing with him since he first started. They spent an hour after the game shedding some tears and reminiscing over all the games they had played and practices they endured.
Zach loves football – not like one loves chocolate or walking on the beach. That is why, at one time, it surprised us all that he was considering not playing in college. He had his dreams set on one particular college and felt that if he could not play for them, he could at least go to school there. But due to the persistence of one very dedicated coach, who asked him “Do you want to watch football on Saturdays, or do you want to play football”, he chose to continue on with his first love.
Today, I helped my “baby” unpack his clothes, put up pictures, and organize his desk in his new home for the next four years. After toting boxes up several stairs and sitting through a couple of meetings with the team coaches, it was time to say goodbye. Zach first shook my husband’s hand, did the half hug thing men do, then he turned to me and asked me not to cry. At first I thought it was because he would be embarrassed… then I looked at him and realized that he was finding this goodbye just as hard as I was. HE did not want to cry in front of the other players. So, I held it together, hugged him, and whispered that I loved him. He told me he loved me too, and then went to find players he already knew. I waited until I hit the car and then let it all out. I cried because this was not a temporary move. I cried because his room was now empty. I cried because I was so proud of him and his tenacity to not give up on the one thing he truly loved. My boy was now a college football player and actually no longer a boy… but instead an amazing young man.
Isn’t that what every parent wants for their child… to grow up and follow their dreams. This is my first child to leave the nest, and while it is so hard to let him soar on his own, it is what we all wish for them. Time flies so quickly. Remember to enjoy every moment, even the tough ones, because before you know it your baby will soon be all grown up forging their own path in life.
“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” Denis Waitley
Have an amazing day!
Mom of 5 amazing kids, married to Shawn, retired teacher of 19 years, cares for a total of 9 pets (3 frisky cats and 6 great-tempered dogs), daughter, really amateur photographer, photoshopper, a football, wrestling, track, baseball, dance, and tumbling mom, zazzle designer, constant dieter, handles the budget, hates to cook, addicted to coffee, trying-to-quit smoker, TV potato, and passionate about writing.