A Shoebox Worth Keeping

Whew! The last week has been a whirlwind. Never did I imagine that a little old article about travel baseball would incite so much discussion. For those of you that sent me a supportive email, or a message, thank you. For those of you that disagreed, or sent me hate mail, thank you as well. Sometimes I need a good laugh and you provided that.

I know this is supposed to mostly be an outdoor column, but lately almost every chance that I’ve had to get in the woods, or on the water, we’ve been dodging tornadoes. I did make one turkey hunt recently, but didn’t hear a bird, or see a bird, until I was driving down the road headed back home. Talk about adding insult to injury. To top things off, nearly every waking moment of not playing baseball has been devoted to packing up our house (we are moving soon). Given my recent circumstances, and the fantastic response to last week’s article, I’ve decided to somewhat stick to that theme this week.

If you’ve ever changed residences, at some point you’ve likely thrown your hands up and wondered where all of this crap came from. The amount of accumulated “junk” is perplexing. Some of it I haven’t seen in years, and some of it I legitimately have no idea how it got here, or what it even is. I don’t consider myself of having too many things of real value, and the things that I call valuable aren’t worth any money, just more sentimental value. Outside of a few weapons, and a ridiculous amount of skulls from various critters, there’s not much in this house that I couldn’t do without. However, in my constant state of digging and boxing, I stumbled onto an old shoe box that brought some smiles, and tears, to my face.

I don’t consider myself to be a hoarder. I’m more of the type of person that if I haven’t used it in the last year or two I’ll throw it away. My grandfather probably just turned over in his grave when I typed that. The man found a use for everything that he ever owned, even long after a normal person would have discarded it. This old shoe box, though, stopped me from continuing my task of boxing up my closet and held my attention for the remainder of the evening. As I perused through its contents, I experienced a flurry of emotions.

The box contained a large, manila envelope that was marked “graduation”. I opened it up and it was full of cards that were sent to me upon my high school graduation from various friends of our family. I probably should have tossed it aside and continued my work, but I couldn’t help but go through them. Many of the people that sent these cards have passed on. I was actually amazed at how many are no longer with us. It wasn’t THAT long ago, right? So many of these people had high expectations for my future. I’m not sure I’ve ever been as humbled as I was the other night reading those cards. And it got me to thinking, “Have I lived a life that would make these people proud?”

With that thought in mind, parents…this next part is for you. In just a few short weeks, another senior class will be graduating high school and college. Last week I wrote about the harms of travel baseball, or so some of you thought. If you’re one of the ones that thought that article was about travel ball alone, let me clear something up for you. It wasn’t as much about travel baseball as it was, wait for it…you. Parents, we are the problem. Yes, we. I have three daughters that I am failing on a daily basis. We are failing to spend quality time with them. We are failing to teach them the things that really matter, and we are letting them worry about the things that don’t. We are failing to prepare them for the harsh realities that this world is going to throw at them very soon. We spend too much of our time trying to fix things for them.

I think that perhaps the best advice that I may have gotten regarding parenting has been, “Let them fail.” That sounds so harsh, even more so when I type it. I don’t know about you, but my biggest lessons in life have come through my own failure, rather than someone fixing it for me. One of the best things that ever happened to me, athletically, was not making the junior high baseball team when I was in the 7th grade. Guess what? It made me work harder, and I was the MVP of the team in 8th grade. Let them fail. It took flunking a class in college one time before I realized that actually going to class mattered. Let them fail.

Letting your kids fail is hard. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love them. Of course you love them, that’s why you’re letting this happen. You’re preparing them for far worse problems in the future. I’m grateful that my folks let me fail from time to time. I’m not sure it was by design or not, but I’m glad they did. My hope is that one day my kids can look back on the things they failed at, but learned a lesson on how to deal with it. If that happens, then I’ve done my job as a parent.

One more thing, when people send your graduate cards and notes it’s highly likely that they will skim over them, pull the cash out, and toss the card aside. Do yourself, and them, a favor. Pick them up, put them in an envelope, and stash them in an old shoebox. I’m sure glad that my Mom did.

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