In the past week, I have learned of two families dealing with devastating issues involving their teenage sons: one a tennis family, the other a football family. In both cases, the issue surfaced seemingly from nowhere to turn the families upside down and inside out. The road to recovery will be long for both of them. It will involve anger, frustration, perseverance, and, above all, belief. My heart is breaking for both of them.
First the football story . . . At a prominent private school here in Atlanta, a 17-year-old member of the high school’s varsity football team was arrested and is being held without bail for sexually assaulting a classmate in the gym shower. He is from a “good” family. I have friends who are friends with his parents – they are just like the rest of us, doing the best job they can at this parenting thing. Their son, in the company of some teammates, made a grave – GRAVE – error in judgement. The victim is going to be okay physically, but may never recover emotionally. According to our local newspaper, the charge against this young man is one of the more serious criminal offenses under Georgia law, one of the so-called “seven deadly sins” for which there is no parole unless the sentence is life. A conviction carries a punishment of 25 years to life in prison. In other words, if convicted – and even if NOT convicted – this young man’s life as he knows it is over. This incident will follow him and his family the rest of their lives.
And the tennis story . . . In Tennessee, a 17-year-old 5-Star high school senior who had recently committed to play at the University of Tennessee next year was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. He had been complaining of back pain, and once it got too severe to tolerate, was admitted to the hospital for testing. Sadly, the tests confirmed that he had cancer. His first course of chemotherapy is underway and will last 29 weeks. Thanks to the power of social media, his story has been shared and his family is receiving support from all over the world. His mom reported that he got a signed autographed picture of Andy Roddick from Babolat that is hanging above his bed, reminding him of how important the “grind game” will be. He is literally now fighting for his life.
I share these stories with you not because I’m trying to scare you but because sometimes we all need a reminder to hug our kids. To appreciate them. To shower them with love. To support their goals and dreams. To laugh with them. To cry with them. To tell them how much we love them.
Life is short. Tragedy can strike at any time. We have to savor our time with our children, giving them a foundation of strength. Just. In. Case.
As the mother of the Tennessee boy shared on the family’s CaringBridge page, “Even though I have moaned and groaned over the years about the time, energy and $ we have spent on junior tennis, Sean will totally reap the rewards of this experience now. He will have to have goals, overcome adversity, learn to be coached (the Dr.’s), be mentally strong, and fight his pants off…all the while staying positive. So, I am now totally grateful of our tennis experience and wouldn’t change it for the world. The life skills learned in junior tennis will prove to be invaluable.”
Please join me in sending prayers, healing thoughts, and positive energy to these two families. Both are battling. Both will continue to battle for quite some time. There, but for the grace of God . . .
Please. Don’t forget to hug your kids.