This past weekend was 78 degrees and sunny in Phoenix (apologies to friends and family and readers living elsewhere during the winter months). It was also a holiday weekend with schools closed on Monday.
But more important to me, this past Saturday, I drove my 15-year old son to his first official job. He spent 11 hours this weekend reffing games for a local outdoor soccer tournament (holiday weekend, remember).
To me, it looked like a pretty fun experience. Officiating a 4-on-4 soccer match for 7-year old girls isn’t necessarily the pinnacle of stress. But I’m sure he was nervous, nevertheless.
In fact, I know he was nervous. Or at least he was nervous enough to ask me to stick around for his first game.
So I sat down in a chair next to some parents. It was fun watching my son ref. But I had just as much fun observing parents watch their young daughters learn the game of soccer.
Most of the time, they sat quietly in their chairs or they called out instructions, “Go get the ball.” “Kick it the other way.” “Run harder.” You can probably picture it.
Of course, not all parents sat. Some stood. And still others were off pushing a stroller… entertaining a younger sibling… or throwing the football with an older brother. Lots of young parents, as far as the eye could see, supporting and enjoying their kids.
Watching their faces, I vividly recalled a life that once was.
You see, it wasn’t all that long ago, I was one of those parents. My son was younger, learning soccer, and we were the proud parents watching him learn the game for the first time. My daughter also, was once one of the 7-year old girls jumbled up on the field, trying to kick a black and white soccer ball into the net.
But not this weekend. Those days are no more.
This weekend was about watching my son work hard on a job and earn his first paycheck.
Over the years, I’ve spent countless hours, weekends, and evenings sitting in a chair watching my son play soccer. I can remember, at times, being out of town or having to miss a game because of work. I can remember being distracted at some games answering emails or texts. And I can remember, on at least more than one occasion, not really wanting to spend another Saturday afternoon on a soccer field.
But all those reasons to not fully embrace that season of life seem foolish to me now. I don’t have any idea what could have been so important that I thought I needed to be answering emails or texts on my phone. Honestly, I don’t remember any of the emails that I answered or the texts that I sent.
This past Saturday, I wish I could have it all back. I wish I had put the phone away. I wish I had cancelled the work assignment or the speaking engagement. I wish I hadn’t wanted to be somewhere else.
I wish I could go back, just one more time, and watch a little boy learn to play a game he loves so much. I wish I hadn’t missed a single moment of embracing and enjoying fully that season of my life.
I suppose that’s how it is with life. When we’re in a season—whether it be single, newlyweds, young parents, raising teenagers, empty-nesters, retired, or anywhere in-between—the beauty of the season too often escapes us. The burdens and the stresses distract us. And we too easily miss the beauty of the forest because we’re distracted by the trees.
Later that evening, I drove my son back home. We talked about work and officiating and handling coaches and parents. We talked about money—giving, saving, and spending. We talked about sports. And we talked about driving (he gets his permit next month).
Somewhere along the way, he became a young man.
I did my best to resist any distraction that would have taken me away from that car ride. There were important lessons about life he was learning that day and I wanted to be a part of them.
The season of life with my son may have changed. But my opportunity to embrace and enjoy this one has not.