January 19, 2014: Flying Blind with Benny Lane


I have often said that my favorite blog subject is Ben Lane. For the record, he likes this accolade. And he continues to live up to this expectation. Last Thursday night was no exception with a late call from Ben.

"Mom, I have an official football visit at Hastings College this weekend. Can you take me?"

<pause>

"Sure. What are the details?"

Within minutes I learned it was an all-day Saturday visit with an overnight and Sunday closing meeting. Of which, I had no e-mail or itinerary. Just Ben's verbal instruction.

<pause. breathe. recite the Serenity Prayer>

Saturday morning. Still no e-mail or official agenda for this overnight road trip. Ben assured me that he had been corresponding with the coach via meetings at school and texts. On a whim and a prayer, I decided to fly blind and follow Benny's instruction. A two hour and fifteen minute drive. A 1:30 check-in on just Ben's word. I breathe again.

We began our venture to Hastings College. Our drive entailed 60 mile-an-hour winds and my listening to Casey Kasem's Top Forty Countdown from 1/14/1978. I enjoyed the BeeGee's while battling corn-shucks nailing my windshield. It was as though we were in the middle of the Kansas tornado that led to Oz. Ben slept through it all.

Ben finally did receive the schedule and the parent hotel info via text from friend and fellow Skutt football player, Matt. He and his parents were weathering the high winds on I-70 as we were.

Finally arriving in the quaint city of Hastings (population 25,000), we were greeted by a troupe of coaches, joining 23 other football recruits and their families. Wikipedia educated me in advance of the 1,200 student population, immense endowment, and 120 acre campus.

I recognized faces, notably a young man from Omaha. Another Matt. I knew his parents and have followed his success on the field from afar. Seeing the friendly faces of parents I knew was reassuring. Ben was excited to be there, as were the other recruits. I sat back and took it all in, reminding myself that this was Ben's gig. I was just along for the ride.

Divided into small groups, we were given student-led tours of the sports facilities and campus. Impressive. And it's a liberal arts college. I was in Heaven. There were copper statues throughout the grounds and buildings with both history and personality. A glass-blowing shop and a comfy coffee gathering spot sang a song in my heart.

As I basked in the allure of the campus, I had visions of being on a reality show similar to Tommy Lee Goes to College. But there would be no parties or hot tutors. Instead, it would center around a middle-aged mom settling her nerdy self into the comforts of an arts based college. Bliss.

And then reality set in as I reminded myself that I had already been to college once. And once is enough. Now it's Ben's turn. Focus was back to the men's basketball game in the field house and the parent/coaches dinner. Ben was matched with a football player who played his host. They were off among a pack of football players, college and high school combined, to enjoy a night on campus.

By the close of the night, I concluded that I was the parent least up-to-speed on my son's college football aspirations. The couple from Lee's Summit had been spending every weekend for most of the fall visiting football programs spanning Illinois to Minnesota to Kansas. For a brief moment I felt regret. But then I came to my senses.

This was Ben's gig. His dad and I were here to support him, but not do it for him. What I do regret is doing too much for my kids when they were young. I figured this out too late. Having resourcefulness as a dominant skill is good for me, but it sure doesn't teach them how to thrive on their own. I slowly figured out that my constant problem-solving actually wasn't good for them. Lesson learned. A new day.

So Ben planned this trip himself, as he did every other college visit. He connected with the coaches and schools. He applied at the schools on-line. And then he set up the visits. Albeit blind at times, we have just flown by his side when parental input was necessary and by his direction.

After an exhausting day on campus, I did enjoy good conversation over margaritas with the dad and parents of the combined Matt's. Having these great parents to share the day was a pleasant surprise. Their guidance and observations on college football and recruiting helped me wrap my mind around the process. It also reinforced that Ben was following the right path.

This morning Ben and I had our closing meeting with the coach. He gave Ben an official offer letter. And then he emphasized that the offer was 100% based on Ben's efforts in football and academics. The rest of the college package, relating to grants and financial aid, were all me. But mine were the easy parts. Simple paperwork. I tip my hat to Ben on the others.

The drive home was much better than the ride there. I was safely able to occupy one hand with cup of coffee while securing my other hand on the wheel. The skies were sunny and the wind, nonexistent. Ben napping in the passenger seat was a clear indication there wasn't much sleep at the dorms the night prior.

Ben awoke to a text.

"Mom, I have a college visit at Doane this Wednesday at 11:00. The coach just text me."

Me: "Wednesday I work and you have school. And why 11:00??"

"But, Mom, I thought that way we wouldn't have to spend the night."

Huh?

<pause. breathe. recite the Serenity Prayer>

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