My son leaves in less than two weeks to travel, alone, to Mallorca, Spain.  He will be staying there for a month – maybe longer – to live and train at Global Tennis Team (click here to read my trip report about my lesson at Global in June).  This is his first trip to Europe.  This is his first trip outside the US without his parents.  This is a big, brave step.

And, this is not – I repeat, NOT – simply about him having a chance to become a better tennis player. While that will hopefully be a perk of his trip, my husband’s and my decision to offer him this opportunity has much more to do with him having the chance to become a better human being.

If you had the chance to listen to this week’s radio show with my guest, Barbara Tipple, you heard about the changes she has seen in her son since he has been living and training at Global.  Yes, his tennis has improved, and he has become more committed to putting in the hard work in order to get better.  But, it’s more than that.  He’s matured, grown up, learned to take personal responsibility for his words and his actions, learned to honor his commitments.

Sometimes, our children develop those traits and skills on their own while doing what other kids their age are doing – living at home, going to school, playing an instrument and/or a sport, or holding down a part-time job or doing community volunteer work. But, sometimes our children need to get away from the protective cocoon of their parents and siblings and social group in order to spread their wings and break free.  My son fits into that latter category.

I know there are some of you who will read this post and think, “This woman is totally nuts!”  I’m willing to risk that because I know in my heart that this is the right thing to do for my son at this point in his young life.  My husband and I are very lucky that we have the resources to offer this amazing gift to our son.  In our family (as I suspect in most of yours) our son learning and playing tennis has become about much more than hitting fuzzy yellow balls over a net between some painted lines.  It’s about translating how he reacts to what happens on the court into how he reacts to what happens off the court.  It’s about making choices and decisions that can shape the adult he will eventually become.  It’s about learning discipline and respect and following through on commitments.  All of these are works in progress for my almost-17-year-old.  And they are all things that I hope he improves on during his time at Global.

Will I miss him while he’s there?  Of course!  Will he miss home?  I certainly hope so!  I suspect that the young man who returns at the end of August will be different from the one who gets on that plane on July 29th – maybe a bit more mature, maybe a bit more appreciative, maybe a bit more focused, maybe a bit taller (!).  Change can be a good thing.

He is my youngest, my baby, and part of me is resisting letting him go, letting him grow.  Maybe my son isn’t the only one taking a big, brave step . . .