Ramblings from a Father on the Final Lap - Scott Willard
I tweeted “6m in by 6:30am 40F/dark/rain/fog w/Sean – a father’s blessing! gonna miss it and U in 7 mon”, after my chilly and wet trip through the neighborhood with my newly minted 18 year old boy, Sean, last Sunday morning. We were working the roads long before the first pot of coffee was brewed and probably before anyone would read my tweet, or care, but I did it anyway. This is a new medium for me, so I’m not sure why I felt compelled to announce it to the twitter world, but I’m finding that as I age and Sean matures, I’m becoming much more sentimental about my role in his life than I’ve been in the past. Besides, it was on my mind, so why not-everybody else does it.
My world and role in his life is very different today than it was back in 2005 when we were introduced to competitive high school running with our then freshman daughter. Back then we had all the time in the world to enjoy our kids’ activities and learn the sport because graduation and college were years away. But time has caught up to me and his mom and reality has begun to set in. Hard to believe, but we will soon be empty nesters, so from here on out each and every weekend, race and run together, regardless of time and weather, is priceless. Our 40 minutes together on Sunday morning should have been miserable considering the conditions, but these are sacred moments together as the countdown begins on his remaining time at home with us.
We didn’t solve all of the world’s problems that morning, but we did analyze his training; discussed his last race; bragged about the 49ers awesome win and reviewed his much anticipated recruiting trips that weekend and this upcoming weekend. These masochistic exercise routines that I do with him are soon coming to an end and as silly as it sounds, I’m going to miss them terribly. It was time well spent and he’s been a great kid who has taught me much about what it takes to be a dad; a role model and a friend. They don’t write books for where I am in life and besides, there really isn’t anything that can be done to prepare one for this ‘parenting finale’. It’s a self taught skill and a ‘learn as you go gig’ and if you’re fortunate, it’s a rewarding journey.
We finished the curcuit; got back and cleaned up; arrived at the airport and put him on a plane; all before breakfast. We spent our morning crossing our fingers that he would successfully navigate the Atlanta airport on his own. Hartsfield-Jackson (Atlanta) isn’t an easy one to cut your teeth on and after a couple of phone calls we anxiously waited for his text that all was well and he was at his gate…on the plane... and had arrived in his far flung destination.
We chilled and hoped that he had a great experience and later that night smiled when the text came across the phone stating “I got goose bumps when we got on campus”. That was exactly what we hoped to hear and it helped reinforce that this visit was a wise choice.
Sean is the youngest of our three and all have run at the D1level, but he has been different than his siblings. His early success showed us that he was an extremely disciplined and self motivated youth athlete, so lucky for us we didn’t have to prod him to do anything. He arrived in high school already with several middle school championships; AAU and USATF state and regional XC/ track championships and he was a USATF XC and NSIC track All American. This was like riding on a rocket ship and he didn’t disappoint when he won the 2010 Nike Indoor Freshman mile national championship the following year. And the best part was that at the time he had 4 more years of this left!
He was always one of those kids who you pointed him in the right direction and told him to turn left on the curve and he was on auto pilot. We now find ourselves halfway through that last year of our 4 year plan and the time has blazed past us. There are times when I wish we could go back to those days where there was absolutely no pressure to perform and you could laugh about him tripping over a root or making a wrong turn on a cross country course. I have wondered at times what a more humble beginning with realistic expectations and progressions would have been like for him.
He started out with a lot of hype that eventually caught up and overwhelmed all of us by smothering his confidence when he couldn’t live up to his own standards. But he has persevered and this life’s lesson will be priceless as he continues on his journey with us as his backstop. I am proud to say that many know me as ‘Sean’s dad’ and I love it! I grew up as ‘Ken’s son’ because of my father’s NFL exploits, so it’s nice to finally get out of my dad’s shadow after all of these years.
Sean has been an inspiration to me and has lived the life and will leave high school with 12 college credit hours; dozens of district, region, state and metro honors; 12 varsity athletic and academic letters; individual district and region championships; district and region runner of the year honors; 3 podium finishes at the VA state XC championship; a state team XC championship and a trip to NXN in Portland. He is wise beyond his years and absolutely knows who he is. He has been knocked down more times than he has been on a podium, yet every time he has encountered a tough spot he has found a way to pick himself up, brush himself off and come back for more. He has a huge heart and to me these are innate qualities that are as much of a gift as his foot speed and will serve him well in whatever he decides to do.
He won’t leave high school with the legacy that he thought that he’d once leave with, but to me that means that there is upside at the next level. He is a battle tested and hungry warrior who has not only been to the mountain top early and tasted accomplishment, but he has also eaten humble pie in the valley.
As I reflect on my 18 year journey with him, I can’t think of a better and more rewarding experience than it has been to be Sean’s dad. I don’t care if he never wins another race-it has been a truly wonderful ride and we have been blessed to be a part of his life and are excited about his future and creating more memories with him.