Thursday, March 07, 2013

Letting go.

For six years, every time I have folded laundry there has been a huge pile of Kyler's running gear in the stacks of clean clothes. Shorts, t-shirts, enough socks for an entire team, warm-ups, sweat bands, uniforms. Piles of running clothes.

When Kyler was a young school boy, we really didn't think he was going to be an athlete... he tried a few years of baseball but spent more time in the outfield looking at the sky than actually playing and after a broken nose at a practice, decided baseball wasn't his thing...
He tried basketball once... playing at Hoopfest with a few buddies. Yeah... again... not his thing.

Then, at the end of his sixth grade year, he took his spring fitness test and came home with a mile-run time that impressed his dad. We were looking ahead to his transition to junior high and had some concerns about him finding his way there... Asia told him, "I want you to run cross country and track next year." And so it began.

It was a great way for him to settle into a great group of kids... runners are generally pretty awesome kids - hard working, dedicated, supportive. Cross country is a great sport, because your individual times contribute to a total team score, but it's competitive in a really individual way. As the boys ran together, it became about their own personal records... sure, they wanted to beat each other, but more importantly, they wanted to know if they themselves were getting faster...

The cool thing was, Kyler was good at running.

So we went through two years of junior high running... watching him slowly get faster and build friendships with his teammates.

And then we started thinking about high school... and found out that 'running camp' for the high school team would be right away... actually, before he even finished his last week of school in eighth grade.

He skipped his last day of school to go to Montana with the team and do a four day intensive training camp. I dropped my first $175 on his first camp.

He called us after the first day exhausted. They ran twice a day. Miles and miles and miles. I was concerned and a little nervous for him, but he pushed through and in those first days of being a Lewis and Clark Tiger, bonded with his team.

His first year, he lettered. Lettering in cross country is based on your 5K time - and he made the cut at a meet in Pasco, Washington.

We went on to letter all four years.

Over the years I've dropped hundreds of dollars on camps, shoes, spikes, team gear, travel (to California 3 times), fees... it's been quite the investment...

He ran track every spring, not because he loved it, but because it was good solid training for cross... he was never a fan of 'running around in circles' as he put it... but managed to improve every year on all three long distances...

Spokane is one of the most competitive running cities in the country... we have consistently had several teams compete at national events... you have to be FAST to run here... and train year-round.

And so he did.

His PRs:
5K: 16:11
1600m: 4:36
3200m: 9:54
800m: 2:01
3 miles: 15:27

His 3 mile time places him 9th in the state for 4A boys.

I have enjoyed being team mom, muffin maker, banquet organizer, email sender and spectator extraordinaire... I haven't missed a race. It has truly been my very favorite thing about his high school career - watching him run. I have been so proud of his improvement over the years, his positive attitude and his speed. In short, I LOVE watching him run.

Last spring, after his appearance and times at the Track Regional Championships, he started receiving letters from interested college coaches.

We began the process of talking with different colleges, doing campus visits, and looking at his options for the potential to run as a college athlete.

He received scholarship offers.

But unfortunately, the offers all came from private schools... very expensive private schools. And none of the scholarships were enough to make attending there a reality.

After much consideration and prayer and soul searching, he decided not to run next year and to attend Eastern Washington University - which is local, and has the least expensive tuition in the State. He will not run there, and has chosen instead to work his way through school. His goal is to finish out his bachelor's degree with no college debt. He will graduate from high school with an AA degree thanks to an amazing program here where he has been able to simultaneously enroll at a community college during his junior and senior year... so he has two tuition free years of college already. He's in great shape to potentially reach his goal.

He also, after a long hard look at his financial situation, decided this week not to run track this final senior year season in order to free up his schedule to have better availability at work.

It's actually a very long-sighted, wise and mature decision. He recognizes that the temporary enjoyment of one last track season doesn't really compare with the ability to really buckle down and save as much as he can for school next year. Especially since he will not continue his running competitively next year...

It was tough for him to come to that conclusion. Hard to tell his coach. Hard to tell his teammates. Hard to let go of some last few 'team' social times. He loves these boys. And they love him. But he really wants to focus... and since he really didn't ever love track... and doesn't need to be training for a fall season... he's done.

If it was hard for him, it was crazy hard for me.

I'll admit to crying a lot.

I think there's a lot behind that for me...
  1. Kyler and I don't always see eye-to-eye on a LOT of things. We have vastly different personalities, likes and dis-likes. His running has been a really great common ground for us.
  2. He ended his cross country time with a bit of a tragedy, falling at the State Championships... I was so sad for him that he wasn't able to perform the way he had all season. I was disheartened that he wasn't able to get his top-fifteen goal (which was TOTALLY realistic for him going in...) and was looking forward to him being able to redeem himself with some great track times. As it stands, the hard reality is that his last race ever sucked.
  3. I'm a little embarrassed to have been such a strong team supporter and now have a quitter on my hands. (Just keeping it real. I'm not ashamed of his choice... I think he's doing what's right for him... but there's always that part inside of us that worries about what other people will think... not proud of that, but it's still there.)
  4. I'm sad/worried about the way this could impact his social life.
  5. I've had to face the fact that although he is crazy talented, running was honestly really never his passion... he is such a social kid that the team aspect of it was what pushed him to practice and get better. But strangely enough, there was NEVER much internal motivation from him. I always said that if he had any internal drive he could have been an AMAZING runner. As it was, his natural talent carried him a LONG way. But honestly, he would never go out and run just for the sake of running. It wasn't something he loved. He did it. For a lot of reasons. Partly, I think, because he knew how much I loved him doing it... (lots of layers to this one, I think...)
  6. The truth is, he's graduating from high school. It's the end of an era. He is an 18 year old man. And he gets to choose how he lives his life. He's my baby - and honestly, I'm pretty sure I'm not ready for this.
I've had lots of dear mom-friends praying for me this week as I've been grieving... it really is a grief process... hard to walk through, but good all the same. I'm forced into a lot of soul searching... and pushing myself to appreciate Kyler's maturity... I am thankful he is being so intentional with his time and planning well for his future.

But the truth of this week has been, I'm really sad that I'll never see him race again.

I'm crazy proud of him.

But it is still hard.

I know, in the grand scheme of things, this is just a teeny blip on the radar.

Really, am I complaining that I won't have piles of running clothes to wash and fold every week?

I've felt a peace come over me as I've leaned into it...

And for that I'm really thankful.

No one can really ever warn you about how hard it is to walk through these seasons of parenting...

But then, they can't really explain the depth of gratitude that comes from emerging on the other side of a tough season. There is a pretty amazing process that always seems to bring me to the other side where I'm finally able to say, "It's all good."

Even the tears are good. I'm so thankful to have had such a meaningful/fun/enduring/rewarding experience with Kyler that I have to grieve that it is now over...

That IS a good thing.

And even though he isn't running again, I can still cheer him on.

"Go, Kyler!" (I love you!)


  1. When I started having children 30 years ago, my sister told me, " are joining the ranks of many who set themselves up for failure and disappointment". I didn't understand what she was talking about and even felt she was a little bitter -- how could she hit me with that right after I had a baby and looked forward to their (our) future?! Then she explained to me that our dreams as parents aren't always (or even sometimes) the same as our child's desires or dreams.

    You dream of activities, college, marriage, etc., for your baby from day one. Then your dreams are burst when they take different paths. 20 years later I discovered she was exactly right. Once I got through my own disappointment and celebrated my children's independence and the awesome choices they had made, I could accept "their dreams" rather than mine.

    My best encouragement for you is to cherish the memories and appreciate the relationship you have with your son. That is what is lasting any way, not his identity in running. I know you know that - I'm sure you agree that is the thing that matters most. But it doesn't make it easier when our dreams are disrupted.

    I am embarrassed to share that I was disappointed was when my son quit tennis. He was a state contender and nationally ranked. It was a journey we traveled together -- I can relate to the camps, trips, lessons, costs! It was a huge investment. I have to say I enjoyed the recognition of having a "champion" and was identified as "SO and SO's Mom"......I felt pretty important (WOW -- I admitted that). His quitting embarrassed me. I hated telling people that he no longer was interested in playing. I felt like he was a failure, and I was hurt and let-down!

    Bottom line was that my son achieved the goals he had for himself in tennis and desired to grow in other areas. It still hurt because I knew his potential in that sport. But when I watched him develop as a young man he helped me recognize his identity didn't have anything to do with tennis.

    My son passed away 4 years ago. I am glad he knows that I was proud of him no matter what he pursued. Our relationship was a bond that no one could ever break. For that I am grateful. I miss him so much! (And I still miss watching him play tennis) He helped me to realize that moving forward is essential in all we do.

    It sounds like your relationship with your son is similar. I can tell you are proud of him. He loves you and your support. Change is hard. Try to enjoy the journey. The only constant is change! Through my experiences I keep re-learning that things will never be the same and that is ok! The journey is just different.

    I hope you survive this transition. It is a time of mourning the things that "were". But look forward to the things that WILL BE!


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  3. Sorry this was so long -- It wasn't meant to be -- And my intention was not to be preachy! You seem like an awesome mother and the feelings you are experiencing are more than normal! Don't beat yourself up!

  4. Oh Cathy, we could have/should have talked. Same experience here with Eli and BB senior year. His talent was usurped and the coach was not a friend, he was done and I was stuck in what could have been. Great insight to the grief and the melting into change. Being a Mom is a bittersweet, because when our job is WELL DONE - they move on.

  5. I feel just like you do~! When Leah was at Shadle she was a state gymnast for four years, pole vaulter & then athlete of the year :)...then...on to an incredible new life which didn't include us sitting on those hard bleachers every nite of the week or traveling on the weekends...I missed it soooo much~!~!!! will fill your time (I know you, you already do, mentoring us WW kids~!) & new beginnings...its


  6. Cathy,
    I have thought many times, this teenage phase isn't that bad after all. My son and I have always been very close, and we still are. Recently he is having what I think/hope is a teenage identity crisis, and I feel a mixture of despair and inadequacy. I feel like the cliche parent, that wants to spare my child the pain and mistakes of my teen years. I know I can't, but the desire to do this is powerful. I feel like Stalker Mom at times, and struggle to find the balance in sharing his life, knowing his friends, but giving him room to grow and be independent. I feel guilty that I'm not on my knees praying for him each and every day. I want to slow down his childhood, and he isn't really a child any more. He's this boy/man now. Sometimes I just can't even talk about it to friends. I want to respect his privacy, and I don't want their opinions. And now, I feel this gratitude to you, for sharing your struggles so candidly, so honestly. Thank you so much.


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