One day you leave work early to get to your daughter’s youth recreational game in time for the first pitch. It seems like the next day you give her a hug and kiss and watch her leave home for college. Then, you get home from work to find a quiet house. In fact, it’s never been this quiet before.

You don’t have to take her to lessons, go to a camp, game or the field to help her practice. You find yourself sitting alone wondering what to do. You can’t shake the feeling that you should be somewhere doing something. It’s like you’re forgetting something important as your anxiety levels slowly rise. You are officially experiencing the empty nest syndrome.

Hailey & Kara drive with Hayley to Georgia.  Hailey & Kara leave for college this week.

Guess what mom….dad….your day is coming when your baby girl is going to leave home. Whether she’s heading to college to play softball or not, she’s going to move out one day. It may seem like that day is far away, but believe me….time flies.

Fathers will likely miss practicing with her after work or on the weekends. Moms may miss the sleepovers and adorning their hair with bows and ribbons. Neither will miss getting home late at night after spending all day at the park, doing laundry and getting up at 5am to head back to the fields. You may miss the excitement of college coaches watching your daughter, but not the recruiting process itself.

Hailey, Kara & Hayley at Valdosta State UniversityYou might even miss some of her coaches. You’ll miss her friends coming around, watching movies, babbling on about boys, her boy friend(s) and some of her school activities. You’ll miss knowing that she is home safe at night just down the hallway. You’ll miss being there for her when she wakes up in the middle of the night with a fever. You’ll hate that you cannot give her a hug when some boy breaks her heart or that you can’t fix her car when it won’t start.

You’ll miss your softball families, you know, those just like you who you have spent so much time with over the years at the games, 3 hour practices, in hotels or camp grounds, playing cards, going out to dinner together and cheering on the team. You can’t always talk softball with your co-workers, but your softball families are there for you anytime.

While you dads out there may be thinking this is just an article for moms, you’ll see. I’ve told people that I’ve spent more time with my daughter Hayley than both of my other two girls combined. 4 years of travel soccer and 8 years of travel softball add up to a lot of long drives, where usually it was just her and I. Add to that the practices, camps, lessons and our individual practice time and you can see I’m not exaggerating. And then one day it stops…..completely.

The inevitable day will come when you either help move her into her dorm or you watch her drive away in her car. In her first year away that first month will be the hardest for her….and you. She may cry herself to sleep, question why she ever left and miss you and everything about home terribly. While you’re going stir crazy waiting for the phone to ring or a reply to your text message(s), she’ll be as busy as she’s ever been with school, softball, strength & conditioning and dealing with her roommates.

Hailey, Kara & Hayley at Valdosta State UniversityYes, if she hasn’t already to some degree, she’s learning on the fly to take care of herself without any of your help. When you finally get that text, it may be a request to deposit more money into her account or to send her something she forgot. And then the phone is silent once again. She’s making friends and getting a taste of something you’ve long since forgotten: Freedom. Oh it will get easier for her and you, but it will never be the same.

Hayley played travel ball the summer after her freshman year and it was a lot of fun. Despite offers to play 23u, she chose not to play that summer. She came home, traveled with me to a few of my team’s tournaments and then did something she was never able to do before: She just hung out with her friends and family. From the age of 10 her summers revolved around softball.

me kara hailey dinnerShe was only 4 hours away the first two years at Ball State. Valdosta State is 15 hours away. We helped her move in before, but for VSU two of her best friends packed up her car and drove with her down to Georgia. They stayed for several days helping her move into the house she’s sharing with a teammate and graduate assistant coach. A few days later she woke up with a 103 fever. Her friends took her to the clinic and cared for her until she began feeling better. They flew home at the end of the week, just before the team’s cell phone free team-building weekend began. Classes began Monday.

When Kara & Hailey returned home, I took them to dinner.  These are two fine young ladies that I also coached in high school.  At the time Kara was a freshman at Central Michigan and Hailey a sophomore on the Siena Heights softball team. 

Yes. Time flies, they grow up and move out. My oldest daughter Lindsay moved to Austin, Texas in 2010. My middle daughter Brooke lives nearby and Hayley’s in Georgia. I guess being scattered across the country is the new norm? Never would I have dreamed that this is how things would be 10 years ago. Maybe the next time you’re taking your little girl to practice, a lesson or game, you won’t see her as your softball player. You’ll see her for something she’ll always be long after her playing days are over: Your Daughter.

I hope this perspective helps all of you enjoy the journey you’re on right now a little bit more, because you're gonna miss this.

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