My Facebook feed this time of year is frequented with images of friends, especially from high school and college, sending their kids off to elementary or middle school, even high school. My own son just started college himself. I’m 40 years old This is weird…and wonderful.
When Stephani and I dropped Joseph off a little over a week ago. She cried a lot. I didn’t. His time had come to take this next step. He needs the opportunity to grow outside our home…and we could use the opportunity to have a cleaner house (seriously, the boy leaves a trail of messes in his wake that is almost unbelievable). My lovely bride agrees, but she also has a deep emotional bond with that kid based on our journey as a family. Thus, the tears.
When we came home from taking him to college, Stephani cried again when she looked out the kitchen window and saw the empty spot where he usually parks his car. I didn’t tear up too, but I’ve encountered my own unexpected ways I miss my boy.
- He started morning workouts for Army ROTC last week. In the past when he had a sports practice or workout I’d have a chance to see him later in the day and ask how it went. Now I don’t.
- I often go shopping at Costco on Monday evenings. The usual trip this past week was more than a little different without an active, teenage boy to feed.
- He’s not here to tease Stephani. I didn’t realize I would miss watching him interact with his mother. I do.
His texts are different too. Before it was the regular stuff of life. When would he be home….could I pick something up next time I was at the store…all of that. Now they’re more meaningful. He doesn’t text a lot, but when he does he’s asking for something or letting us know something has happened.
Like what happened this week: he not only received his Army ROTC uniform (pictured above), he got word he received a three-year ROTC scholarship too.
That’s a big deal, and not just for our pocketbook. Joseph is now making a commitment to the Army. They pay for his schooling after his freshman year. He owes his country some serious time in service thereafter.
Joseph was told from the start that a four-year scholarship was unlikely, because those are limited and Carroll College’s Army ROTC program is through the University of Montana, which has its own kids to consider as well. But getting a three-year scholarship is a big deal. Full tuition, room, and board…plus a stipend.
Now, the boy has to keep earning it.
I believe he will. Here’s why: he succeed at a great college prep school, and he grew into a man under the tutelage of a great set of sports coaches, including his high school football coach, Jim Shapiro (also pictured above). What Joseph is doing right now is a perfect example of why amateur athletics matters.
Somewhere along the path of life, an athlete taps out. Their body says no. They hit the ceiling of their talent level. They lose interest in the sport. Their time in organized sports comes to an end, for whatever reason.
What matters then is what being an athlete taught them about life.
Joseph is ready for ROTC because he learned commitment, hard work, dedication, character, teamwork, and toughness as a King’s Knight under Coach Shap. All those off-season workouts, those summer practices, the daily grind of the football season, the ups and downs of being a teenage athlete? Yes, those were preparing Joseph to play his role on a football team. And more importantly they were preparing him for ROTC as well.
That’s why I’m proud of the boy. I know he’s already doing something at the age of 18 that matters, and will shape him further into the man he is supposed to be.