Me, My Dad, Matt Dillon, And Tough Goodbyes

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Women just don’t dig Gunsmoke. A show that ran for 20 years and 600+ episodes, and I can’t even get my wife to sit through one episode with me. “Karrick I don’t see why you watch this.”jThat’s been a bit of a puzzle to me. But I think I’m beginning to understand. It’s a guy thing that boils down the beauty of Marshal Dillon’s character.

I attended a funeral this week. And for me, funerals always bring up reflections and reminders of what the heck we’re supposed to be doing with our time on this earth. My 82 year-old dad lost a very dear longtime friend. A friend of mine since childhood lost a wonderful father. And as I sat in a church listening to tearful tributes to this loving, Godly man and the ways his life impacted theirs, my thoughts somehow circled around to the Matt Dillon’s character on Gunsmoke.

Dillon was a man’s man. He could lick anybody in a fistfight, and nobody was faster on the draw of their pistol. But he was a peacemaker for sure. Chaos quickly ensued in his absence. Calm returned when he was in town. Evil was quickly removed when he was present (usually by a non-bloody single shot to the chest). Dillon could be counted on to do the right thing at all times, regardless of personal pain or risk. He was a protector of justice and of people, always putting others above himself. He somehow always had a way of making people and situations around him better.

I find it strange now, the timing of an episode that I watched the night before the funeral. Miss Kitty, frustrated with Matt’s noncommittal attitude about their very undefined romantic relationship, began to see another man during Matt’s brief absence from Dodge. By the time Matt returned, Kitty’s suitor had turned out to be a violent psycho, and Matt had to shoot him dead, just in time to save the lives of Kitty and Sam the bartender.

A remorseful and grateful Kitty tried to find words to apologize to Matt. But he cut her off with just a couple of words and a reassuring smile that said, “It’s ok, you don’t have to say anything”, before walking away to take care of business. Things were always better when Matt was around. Sam knew it. Kitty knew it.

Sam turned and told Kitty, “He’s an awful good man to have around.” And after a perfect pause, Kitty replied, “He’s the best” before slowly walking up the stairs of the Longbranch Saloon. She knew that she was fortunate to have this man in her life. She knew the town of Dodge was fortunate to have him in their lives.

For boys that grew up watching Gunsmoke, we wanted to be like Marshal Dillon.  But more than that, I think we wanted our dads to be like Marshal Dillon. A mighty man and a protector, always doing the right thing, and just good to their very core.

It sounds so simple. But in the real world, most kids eventually grow old enough and wise enough to see through the faults of their fathers. The weak spots and weaknesses of fathers (or total absences) can no longer be hidden behind the wishful thinking of children.

My friend Barry didn’t come right out and say it at his father Dave’s funeral. But I’m certain that he thinks his dad is “the best”. I feel the same way about my dad. When I was a kid, I thought my dad could fix anything. Now that I’m older, I realize that he simply has the the will and the ability to make everything better. With a father’s touch.  To have a dad who really does turn out to be a hero, to never be forced to accept that he isn’t the man you thought he was or wanted him to be…………..oh what a blessing that is.

This world has a twisted view of what makes a person successful. To an outsider, a man’s active life in business and politics, and an accumulation of possessions and financial stability may indicate a degree of “success”.  But God has different ideas of success. An accurate measure of this type of success can be found in the lives that we impact while we’re here.

The people who spoke of our friend Dave at his service painted a clear and beautiful picture of a life of impact. Loving God and loving others. A man of humility, compassion, and generosity. An encourager. A man of moral courage. Someone who treated others fairly. A great family man…..father, husband, grandfather. A peacemaker whose presence just made things better.

This was the kind of man that Dave was. This is the kind of man my dad is. And this is the kind of man I’m still trying to be or become.

The pastor at Dave’s service said “they don’t make them like that anymore”. He went on to say that he hopes that God calls more men to this type of life. But I think He’s already made that call. Who will answer it?

 

Hey Sis, I Think I’ll Hang On To These

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I sat in my office recently talking to a couple of twenty-something guys about life insurance.  Neither of them were dads, but I noticed one was staring at the hand-painted artwork of my daughter Maddie, that rests proudly at the front of my desk.  Insurance talk came to a brief halt, “That’s about the neatest thing I’ve ever seen”.

I quickly answered that it was my most prized possession, a Father’s Day gift.  It’s taken me a few days to understand why I hold it so dear.  Other than the obvious reasons, I thinks it’s this; it shows that for our shared experiences, her perception matches mine.  The spirit of her memories is perfectly in line with mine in her artwork.

In a wild life of hectic schedules, we found quiet times together.  She always knew where her dad was.  She always had someone to lean on.

I don’t think I’m a hoarder, but I do tend to intercept a lot of thing that are bound for the garbage or the yard sale.  Maybe it’s just a matter of awareness of the value of looking ahead because I know the treasure that lies in looking back.  Possessions that have no monetary value become treasures for those who can look back together at shared experiences of earlier times.  Often a single object does the trick.

It’s become a Thanksgiving tradition for my brother, sister, and I to rummage through our dad’s basement and attic for worthless things that bring back priceless memories.  A Happy Days board game.  A slew of ticket stubs from concerts or sporting events.  A little league baseball hat and a 40 year-old baseball glove.  Treasures that remind me how thankful I am for my family and for childhood memories.

In a home with four children, sometimes the purges are great.  It seems that you can fill a 32-gallon garbage bag with Happy Meal toys at least twice a year.  Sometimes items go away that parents wish they’d kept…….or someday they will wish they kept them.  There was a coat that both of our girls had worn as toddlers that I spent a few years thinking had gotten away from us.  I had a silent celebration when I discovered the Pooh coat buried in the bottom of a storage tub.  “Get your Pooh coat on sis”.  It has meaning for me now.  Someday it may have meaning for the girls as well.  Maybe they’ll dig it out together some Thanksgiving after dinner…….as adults……after they’re married.  And they’ll give thanks for the childhood they spent together.  And I’ll give thanks once again for the time I spent being the daddy of two little girls.

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They’re not so little any more.  Macy is a college graduate, living 4 hours away, and getting married in September.  Maddie just completed her first year of college, but is thankfully home to spend the summer with us (as much as a college student spends the summer with their parents).  The start date of her summer job was pushed back for a week, so she decided to have a yard sale last week.  Mostly things that belonged to her and Macy.  I showed up to help her set things up early on a Saturday morning.  As I was digging through the tubs and boxes, placing items strategically so they could be seen, I hesitated when I pulled out a pair of well-worn soccer shoes with a $.50 price tag on them.

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I silently walked to my truck and placed them in the front seat.  Maddie looked up from her work, “You decide to keep those?”

Maddie probably didn’t know why. They were her sister’s shoe’s.  I didn’t know myself. Macy had put together a pretty successful soccer career.  A player on our school’s first regional championship team to go along with some notable individual accomplishments. Two years of soccer in college.  But I honestly couldn’t even begin to remember what season she wore them in.  And she may not remember herself.

But I remember well the night she picked them out.

And as the days count down to her wedding day, I wonder if she remembers too.  For a dad that really knew little about soccer (other than learning just enough to be a youth soccer coach) and little about soccer shoes, I placed myself firmly in the middle of the annual soccer shoe buying process.  Our girls generally wore their shoes out by playing in both the fall and spring.  Sometimes I had to insist that they replace worn out shoes.

“Daddy, I think these will be alright”.

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So the tradition became that dad combed the internet for shoes that were acceptable for his girls to play in each season.  Time after time, I’d call one of them to the arm of my recliner, “What do you think about these, sis?”.  As they got older, they came to my recliner, iPad in hand, “Dad, what do you think about these?”.  And the dad who hated to overspend on fancy things or pay too much for shoes or clothes that would soon be outgrown always made an exception when it came to soccer shoes.  I don’t think the girls really grasped just how little I understood the game of soccer.  But I think they did come to understand that their dad thought it was important for his girls to play in quality shoes.

“Are you sure those are the ones you want, sis?”.

“Yeah daddy, I’m sure”.

So I’ll store the shoes away in a tub with other treasures.  Other memories.  Someday they’ll come back out.  Maybe on a Thanksgiving afternoon, Macy will dig them out with her brothers and sister.  And maybe she’ll tell her own kids that she was a pretty fair soccer player in her day.  And it may not be worth mentioning to her kids, but I have a feeling that she, and her sister too, will have fond memories of picking out soccer shoes with their dad.

I’m glad I saved the shoes.  But they’re just shoes.  The real treasure lies in shared memories.  And sometimes saving an item here and there helps to keep precious memories alive.

And somewhere in my house is a Thomas the Tank engine wooden roundhouse that would fetch about $50 on eBay.  I was thinking about selling it.  But both of our boys spent hours playing with it.  I guess I’ll hang on to that too.

 

 

 

Last Place In the Last Race

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I found myself in an unfamiliar place at the end of what turned out to be Maddie’s last high school cross country regional meet. A strange series of events led us to stick around to watch the last finisher in the boys race.  I’d never even witnessed the last finisher in a girls race.

Maddie, a senior now, has been running in varsity races since she was a 6th grader.  At many of those meets, she has found herself in the shadow of a high-finishing big sister.  A running joke developed between Maddie and me over the years that her success would be measured in whether she puked or not after she finished.

“If you don’t puke, you can find a ride home with somebody else.”

Where you finish isn’t as important as how hard you compete and push yourself.  When I was tied up with basketball coaching duties and unable to watch our girls run, a text update from my wife might read, “Maddie isn’t sure what place she finished, but she wants you to know that she puked after the race.”

I wasn’t always there to see every race.  But I know that Maddie always finished well, never near the rear of the pack.  And her mother and I always wanted to get to her as soon as possible after she finished because she truly did push herself to her limit in every race (even when she didn’t puke).  I realized today I didn’t have a clue what it was like for those last finishers.  I’d never stuck around to watch them cross the finish line.

This being Maddie’s last meet, there was a somber mood when she was done running.  We talked, hugged a lot, and maybe even shed some tears.  Her mother reluctantly left to try to catch big sister’s final college soccer game of the season (3 hours away).

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Maddie and two of her biggest fans (her two brother) stuck around with me to watch East Carter’s boys run.  We drifted toward the finish line to cheer for our boys team as they finished.

There was a crowd of approximately 100 people lining both sides of the homestretch, cheering wildly as the top finishers came in.  Once approximately half the runners finished, it was pretty much determined who would qualify for the state meet. The crowd shrunk quickly.

We cheered the last of the East Carter boys as they finished.  I stuck around a moment longer in a reflective mood, thinking of all the years our girls had been running, and knowing this was the last trip.  Looking up, I saw only two runners in the distance remaining on the course.  At this point I noticed that the crowd of more than 100 onlookers had dwindled to only about 6 people besides our family.

And that’s when I witnessed the coolest event of the day.  A runner from Ashland Blazer’s girls team came running back from the finish line, toward the homestretch where the handful of fans were standing.  And she was doing her best to generate excitement and support for a teammate who was still on the course.

“Come on guys, we have to go cheer for David!”

But I didn’t notice anyone following her.  What I did notice was an Ashland runner way off in the distance, far behind the next-to-last place runner.  I turned to my three kids, “we’re gonna cheer for these last two finishers.”

A middle-aged man across the course from me, who may have been walking away stopped in his tracks and asked the girl, “what’s the boy’s name?”

The theme spread quickly among those of us who remained:

Spread out and cheer for David.

Eventually the last two runners passed.

“Good job buddy.”

“Hang in there.”

“Good job David”

“Almost there, finish strong.”

Those last two runners had a nice cheering section as they finished.  They might have finished to silence if not for the actions of the young lady from Asland Blazer.  A great teammate.

The athletes that finish consistently in the front and middle of the pack…….maybe they have the advantages of higher levels of talent, self-motivation, and support/encouragement from parents..

For the athlete that finishes in the rear of the pack, there is the danger of finishing alone and discouraged.  The danger of giving up.

Today, perhaps two runners finished last because that’s exactly where their training and experience placed them.  But maybe, simply by the actions of this young lady preventing them from finishing in silence…….they will be motivated to continue on next season instead of giving up.  And maybe their training and determination will reach a new level.

For the young lady from Ashland, well done!  Thankful that our family was part of your act of encouragement.

I Never Thought It Would End THIS Way

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For anyone who has ever coached youth sports of any kind, from pee-wee to middle school, and even high school sports in some cases………I have a deep question that has been floating in my mind in recent days. Just give me minute to circle around to it.

My youngest daughter wrapped up her high school soccer career tonight.  The days leading up to it flooded me with memories of all her games past, both far and near.  Thoughts of different leagues, cities, coaches, teammates, hotel rooms, victory, defeat.  Reflections of how she changed over the years as a player, a competitor, and a person.  Wondering how and why things have played out exactly as they have.  Thinking about influences both good and bad that could have or would have made things better or worse if they’d been different.

And I started thinking about the kids that I have coached as my kids have grown up, from youth soccer to travel soccer, Upward basketball to middle school basketball.  And I just can’t help wondering……

If all coaches could see into the future, to that very day when a kid puts away the cleats or the hi-tops for the last time and walks away from a game………would they choose to coach individual kids differently than they presently do?

Every kid walks away from their chosen sport someday…….then what?

Effective youth coaching is psychiatry and it is parenting.  Each player is unique, and they have specific needs that team sports can bring them.

Many coaches fail to fill those needs because they falsely assume they are training the next state champs.  They fail to see each child beyond that day when the sports equipment goes in the yard sale or the closet.

Shouldn’t the journey of sports teach these things and more to prepare kids for life beyond sports?

  1.  Standard of excellence
  2.  Work ethic
  3.  To believe in themselves
  4.  To trust others
  5.  The value of encouragement
  6.  To know they aren’t the center of the universe
  7.  To know that success does not come overnight (or in one practice)
  8.  To lose with dignity
  9.  To accept temporary failures without blaming others, and to realize these failures aren’t permanent
  10.  To be pushed to their physical limit, time and time again
  11.  To love and to be loved
  12.  To sacrifice for others
  13.  To respect authority and rules
  14.  Teamwork/unselfishness
  15.  To never give up

These things still matter when the cheering stops.

Maddies last stand

The cheering stopped for Maddie tonight.  Her team lost in the regional semi-finals.  In a game where she and her teammates truly “left it on the field”, the score was tied at the end of 80 minutes of regulation.  Two 5-minute overtimes later, the score was still tied.  Penalty kicks would now decide the match.

Maddie stood over the ball, ready to attempt her shot with her team facing a nearly hopeless 3-1 deficit.

If she missed this shot, the game was over.  The season was over.

Sitting on my knees beside my wife, I simply mumbled, “Maddie needs to be to one to take this shot.”

Not because it could be the game winner………because it would be the shot that would seal the loss if she missed.

I don’t know what kind of reaction or look Kristy gave me, but I went on to say, “Maddie needs to be the one to take this shot, because I know she can handle missing the shot to end the game.  She can handle it.  That’s my daughter!”

And my voice cracked at the enormity of what I was saying in a trailing voice……..”that is OUR daughter”.

She missed.  Game over.  Season over.  High school career over for her and her senior teammates.

Maddie played her heart out.  And I was so proud of her.  But when those words came out of my mouth, “that’s our daughter” it hit me so clearly.  I was not proud of her effort or her performance.

I was proud of who she has become.

She met her mother and me after the game with head held high.  That’s our daughter.

Do your best.  Have fun.  Train and play to win.  In the end it’s just a game.  The end came tonight.  I’m thankful for all those who have prepared her in the right ways to go beyond this “end”.

If you’re coaching your 1st game or your 1000th, take an occasional peek toward the end.  Winning is a by-product of doing all things the right way.  Some lessons can’t be cast aside for the sake of early wins or just because you ARE winning games.

And while your players are dreaming of making that dramatic game-winning shot, you better spend some time preparing their toughness and character……for missing it.

Missing What Matters While We Do What Seems Urgent

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“Oh, take your time, don’t live too fast
Troubles will come and they will pass”  -Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Simple Man”

There’s no time like the present to be fully present in the lives of those we love.

I saw a post on Facebook recently, an article link about “what men really think about.”  After reading it, I realized that most of the normal “man thoughts” didn’t really describe me.  My mind was consumed by one thing, logistics.  I think my wife could possibly have an overload of logistical thoughts as well.

There is a silent danger in busy lifestyles to have our present thoughts consumed by thoughts of “what’s next”.  Who needs to be where at what time?  How will I get everything done?  How will I deal with ____ problem tomorrow?  How will I fix problems at work?  How will I carve out future time with my family?  How will we pay for college (for 4)?  In what areas do my kids need guidance or redirection?

You get the picture.  The mind is distracted from the present.  Compound this with the tendency to have over-filled schedules, running quickly from place to place, event to event, and you eventually risk living a life that lacks depth.  Healthy interactions are replaced by an urgency to maintain schedules and show up on time.

Eventually, we miss too much of the present because we are distracted by an unhealthy urgency to maintain what’s next.

I’m not suggesting that we live safe, idle lives out of fear of overload.  We should always be willing to consider doing more than we consider ourselves capable of doing, for the purpose of developing faith in God, and a reliance on His strength and not our own.

But just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should do it.  Recognize when life becomes too much and too fast.  Our level of distraction when interacting with loved ones is a good measure of this.

My son Kal has a great love for his three dogs.  Of our four children, he is the first to actually follow through on the promise of, “if I can have a puppy, I will take care of it.”

When I got out of bed for church on Sunday morning, Kal was nowhere to be found in the house.  He was already outside playing with his dogs.  By the time he came in and got dressed for church and got his breakfast, we were nearing the point of running late for church.  Being  late isn’t a big deal to me, but since I had a class to teach, I at least wanted to not be late late.

His mother and sister had already left, but I realized his big brother was still in bed.  But just as I started to go roust big brother from his slumber, Kal launched excitedly into a tale of something his puppy Zelda had done earlier in the morning.  I wasn’t the least bit interested in hearing this story.  And we really needed to get moving to get to church on time.

But there was a gentle nudge inside me as I looked down and saw the excitement on his face as he talked…….just as I was ready to tell him to tell me later because “we gotta go”.

This is Important to him.  Today and forever…….to have his dad’s full attention and to place value on his words.

“Look him in the eyes and listen to every word he says, like it is the most important thing you will hear all day”.  

This is the thought that crashed into my brain.  So I listened.  And I’m sure that those two minutes that I almost lost because I was RUSHING to be somewhere on time, represented the most valuable two minutes of my whole day.

Simply being present in the present.  Getting something right that I’ve gotten wrong hundreds of times before.

If it’s important enough for  our kids to talk to us about (or ask questions about), then it’s important enough for parents to give full attention to and provide answers.

Distracted parenting means we aren’t watching or listening like we should.  Value the words of your children.  Be attentive enough to see opportunities for praise and encouragement (and correction if necessary).

When parents stop listening, kids stop talking.  When kids stop talking, parents lose a big part of their ability to have a continued positive impact in the lives of their growing children.

Plan ahead but don’t let your thoughts stay in the future.  Live a full life, but don’t let your schedules dictate your life.  And perhaps most importantly, it may be time to make changes in your life when your level of distraction and overload causes you to miss the little moments in the days of your children…………that become collectively huge moments when you miss them.

Doritos and Smoke On the Water

 

I write this for everyone who has ever owned a guitar but never learned to play, for we are the ones that ensure the presence of cheap guitars on EBay.

A trip down memory lane of the songs we never learned how to play.

My son Kal got a guitar this week.  An EBay find, $45 for a Fender Squier Mini.

He has no previous guitar experience.  I only hope he surpasses his dad on his musical journey.

Approximately one minute into his journey, I was flooded with memories of my own failed guitar life in the late 80’s.

He plugged into a mini-Peavey amp, turned everything on and got ready to play his first lick.

“Wait Kal, let me find you a pick”  But I couldn’t find a pick.

Rewind to 1988.  A townhouse apartment at the University of Kentucky that I shared with my brother Scott and two friends.  I had a Martin Stinger electric guitar that always stayed propped up somewhere in plain sight.  But I couldn’t play.  Still can’t. But every rock and roller wants to pick up an ax and at least play a recognizable portion of a few key masterpieces.  Iron Man, Stairway To Heaven, Smoke On the Water.

Most guys that came into our apartment picked up that guitar and banged around on it.  Few had any actual skill.  But I could never keep up with a pick.  My friend Cass delivered the same answer time and time again when I told him there was no pick:

“You got a Dorito?

Last night, Kal looked puzzled when I told him I would get him a Dorito to play with.  I ended up cutting up a gift card in the shape of a pick so he could get started on Smoke On the Water.

In those college days, there were no YouTube videos to watch, Guitar tab websites, or guitar tab books to learn songs from. But we didn’t really care about learning songs.  We just wanted to play cool parts.  I tried to figure things out by ear, and my ear was horrible.  My brother had taken piano lessons as a young boy so he had some understanding of music and chords.  He tried to show me some things, but I was too impatient to learn.  I just wanted to shred, and I was too impatient to learn how to shred.

He is now a skilled guitarist, as is my dad.  My dad, brother, and sister once picked and sang together in church.  Afterwards, people who didn’t really mean to be insulting, asked me, “Can’t you do anything?”  And the only answer I could give was, “No, no I can’t.”

But I wasn’t without my moments in my final year of college.  My friend Marty moved in with a Yamaha 12-string guitar, and he actually knew how to correctly play major riffs from awesome songs.  Dust In the Wind, Sweet Home Alabama, Crazy Train, Don’t Fear the Reaper, and Stairway To Heaven.  Of course he freely shared this knowledge with me, and I was well on my way to a few more years of not being able to play.

Upon returning home from college and getting married,  guitar mags were now widespread, as were tab books, so I acquired a sizable pile.  Developed an interest in thrash metal.  And Justice For All, Hangar 18, Symphony of Destruction. But I just really couldn’t play.  Still I clung to this vision of possibly buying a really expensive guitar and hooking it up to the right amp………and the awesome sound would take my playing to another level.

Thankfully I never make that silly purchase.  Soon after, I became a father and unofficially declared my guitar career over.

I still pick up random guitars and play the opening licks from Enter Sandman.  I still laugh when people who know my dad and brother ask me  “don’t you play?”.

And I could only laugh when Kal asked me how he was going to learn how to play.

“YouTube videos son.  I sure can’t teach you anything.”

And a last-minute confession that might get me kicked out of the Metal Militia:  Marty showed me how to play Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead Or Alive” on his 12-string.  And I thought it was cool.

Watching Me Watching You

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If we expect our children to become adults who work hard when nobody is watching, it’s important to take time when they are children, to notice when they are working hard and doing their best.

I spent some time Friday night watching my nine year-old son Kal participating in the Center Shot archery program at our church.  It’s his second year in the program, but he has no other archery experience.  More potential than skill.  What he knows about archery, he has learned through this program (his dad knows zilch).

I always watch him shoot at the target, but sometimes two kids are shooting at the same target.  I can’t always tell which arrows are his from a distance.  So I usually just watch his body language and facial expressions and see how closely he’s listening to instructions.  Sometimes he looks my way in the back of the church gym during the night, but usually not.

I wasn’t paying particularly close attention at one point because he had just finished shooting all of his arrows into the target.  I might have even been distracted by casual conversation with someone seated next to me.  But I looked up just in time to see Kal, looking back at me proudly.  He was pulling his arrows out of the target, but he was saving the best for last.  His hand waited on the arrow that stuck perfectly in the middle of the target.  Kal wasn’t going to pull it out until he was sure his dad had seen it (“look Dad, I did it”).  As soon as we made eye contact and I gave him a thumbs up, he pulled it out and went about his business.

I didn’t carry out any notable “dad feat”.  I just sat in a folding chair.  But it made me think of kids that hit a bullseye and turn around looking for encouragement or approval…….and nobody’s there, time after time.

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Today I watched my daughter Maddie run in her regional track meet.  The 800M run is her top event and her best chance to advance to the state meet for the first time (1st & 2nd place qualify).  She came into the meet as the 5th seed in region (I think?).  As a 16 year-old junior, Maddie and I have shared hundreds and hundreds of athletic contests, many of those with me as her coach at youth and middle school levels.

But in high school, I have tried to be a quiet presence of support, hiding in the shadows.  As a father of a teenage girl, the thought enters your mind that your daughter probably won’t even notice anymore if you’re not at her events (and does she even care if you come?).  When Maddie was on the track today, I had no reason to believe she even knew where I was.

I stood by myself at a spot just outside the track, about 75 yards beyond the finish line.  She looked strong as she passed me on the 2nd and final lap.  She moved up from 5th place to a strong 2nd place finish on the lap, finishing 5 seconds better than her season’s best time.

Silently from a distance I watched.  I wondered if she would look my way.  I delighted in the joy in her face, felt a sense of pride in her laughter and sportsmanship among the other runners.  And then she shocked me.  Maddie looked across the track at me like she knew exactly where I was the whole time……grinning at me from ear to ear giving me a big thumbs up (“I did it Dad!!!”).

I know it sounds cliche’ and cheesy but don’t underestimate the value of just being there.  Kids just want to be noticed when they do something good.  They need encouragement to continue on when they think they’re doing poorly.

As our kids grow older, will our kids choose us as parents to share their triumphs with?  Will they give up on something too soon because we weren’t there to help them believe in themselves?

Some kids feel constant pressure to be the best on the court, track, or field.  Kids that are playing to please somebody else are miserable.

But kids that look over their shoulder for support, encouragement, and direction…….and always find it, are something else entirely.

SECURE!

Whatever your kids are doing, just find a way to be there.  They don’t need you to be there to tell them how they can do it better.  They just need you to celebrate when they do it well (or give a a great effort, of course).