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Sometime early last semester, my oldest son, Hunter, called late one afternoon from college to talk. He is a junior. It doesn’t happen as often as it did his freshman and sophomore years, which is both a good and a bad thing. It is good because he is becoming more and more independent. It is bad because his mother and I do not get to talk to him as much as we want.
“Hey dad. What’s up?”
He was in his car.
“Nothing really. I just got home from work. What are you doing?”
I figured I would just go ahead and ask because I figured he needed something — probably money.
“I just got out of practice. We had a long one. I hit pretty good.” He plays for the ECU Club Baseball team, which has been a great experience for him. It is good baseball and highly competitive. They won the National Club Baseball Association World Series two years ago and lost in the bottom of the ninth the next year in the championship game. They started this season ranked No. 1 in the country again.
“Cool. That’s good to hear.”
I was still waiting on the money request.
“I had three classes today and I went to them all.”
“Do you want a cookie or something? That’s why you are there.”
“I know. I know. Look, can you order me a pizza and have it sent to my house so it will be there when I get home? I did everything I was supposed to do today. I think I deserve a reward.”
There was complete silence from both ends of the phone. Mostly from my end because I didn’t know what to say.
“Are you kidding me? Your mom and I did everything we were supposed to do today and nobody is ordering us pizza. Do some parents really do that? There is no way you thought of that yourself. I can’t believe you even asked me that.”
I was totally disgusted.
After another couple painful seconds, thankfully, he died laughing. For a brief moment, I thought I had completely failed as a parent.
“I’m just messing with you. I knew that would make you mad. Don’t tell mom. I am going to call her and ask the same thing. Go watch how mad she gets.”
True to form, I heard my wife go from happiness that her son called from college to exasperation as I heard her say, “Order your own pizza. Are you kidding me?”
Then I could tell he was laughing at her, too.
Here is my point. All of us struggle as parents. If you think you have it down pat, you are kidding yourself. It is a constant battle between holding them tight and letting them go. It is giving them some rope and pulling them back into the fold. It’s watching them fail when they should probably succeed and watching them succeed when they should probably fail. It is a roller coaster for sure and never easy.
I heard a quote on television last week that stuck with me and reminded me of this pizza request story from Hunter. During Scott Van Pelt’s report on ESPN’s Sportscenter about parenting the younger generation he said, “Prepare your kids for the path. Don’t prepare the path for your kids. Life does have a scoreboard.”
Great advice, if I say so myself. By the way, I still do not know if Hunter got his pizza. I can say without a shadow of doubt that he has not gone hungry since that day and feeds himself on a regular basis.
His mother and I are very proud.
David Lee is the Wilson Parks and Recreation Department Director. He is also a part-time golfer, part-time writer and, along with his wife, Dana, full-time parents of two boys.