Dear Athlete-by Catherine DuBay

I have this (some say annoying) habit of asking people to tell me their top 3 things that surprised them or amazed them when reflecting upon a vacation, a new job, an epic run or bike ride, etc. So, as we prepare to send our oldest child off to college next month, I decided to ask myself that same question about the last 18 years raising kids. Catherine, what surprised you the most about raising kids?

#3: My husband and I had equal amount of experience going into it (none!) and therefore had to make quick, rational decisions that were impacting someone’s life. I was unprepared for this pressure.

#2: How important the village became. From aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, cousins to child care providers, babysitters and teachers, so many people were involved and crucial in the raising of a child. I really had no idea how important others would be in the process-silly me-thinking my husband and I would be going at this alone.

#1: How unprepared I was for the experience of raising an athlete. Being an athlete myself has been quite an experience. Raising an athlete is a completely different experience. I am a runner. I assumed my kids would be runners. They had other ideas. My oldest daughter chose soccer. She will continue to play soccer while attending Lesley University this fall. I had no idea what it would mean to be a soccer mom. Now I do and for this, I am thankful. Inspired by an essay I read from a college senior to her parents, I write this thank you note to my daughter:

Dear Daughter,

Thank you for the past 13 years of participating in sports. Thank you for allowing your dad and me to convince you that soccer would be fun and for allowing me to stop what you were doing to get you to practice day after day. Thank you for sacrificing sleepovers, playdates, birthday parties and homecoming for soccer tournaments.

Thank you for the opportunity to learn a new sport and although I still have no idea what constitutes off-sides, nor can I understand how a game can end in a tie, I have grown to appreciate the sport of soccer and the beauty of players moving the ball down the field.

Thank you for the making decisions about family vacations so easy. When other families were deciding between a cruise and a European vacation all we had to decide was which hotel in (fill in the central valley city) offered the better breakfast buffet; the Holiday Inn Express or Courtyard Marriott. Thank you for understanding why we weren’t able to take traditional vacations such as Disneyland, Europe or Hawaii and instead for showing us parts of the country we may never visited without you and your sport such as Boise, Dallas, Seattle and my favorite, Hanford, Ca.

Thank you for the opportunity to learn more about laundry than I ever thought I would need to know. You introduced me to YouTube videos detailing how to get the stink out of soccer shoes and shin guards and how to keep your white jersey an acceptable shade of white.

Thank you for toughening me up as I watched your games regardless of the weather. We sat through tournaments so hot our rubber sandals melted on the sidewalk and snow so fierce that the tournament was cancelled (see picture) leaving us snowed in at the Dallas Hampton Inn for 3 days.

Thank you for the time on the sidelines where your dad and I formed friendships with other parents that will remain long after your last game has been played.

Thank you for teaching me how to communicate with my boss and co-workers about time off and how to be more efficient with my time so I could leave work early to watch a game or take a day off to get you across the country for a tournament.

Thank you for teaching me the importance of good medical insurance for those countless doctor appointments for strains, sprains, pains and concussions. And the value of investing in a good GPS system as we had to find emergency rooms in several different cities and states

Thank you for showing me how to be a better fan and not let the outcome of a game effect my day. I learned by watching you come off the field after a tough loss only to be laughing and goofing around with your teammates an hour later as if nothing happened.

Thank you for some of the sweetest memories we have as parents. From the very first practice at Hidden Valley Park with your shin guards on the outside of your socks to years of club soccer and to Friday nights at Nevers field.  Watching you grow from a timid, shy kid who was often confused by the game to an out-going, confident leader on and off the field who has mastered the game has been absolutely worth the price of admission!

Thank you for the wins, losses, ties and most of all, everything in between.