“I GUESS MY body gave it away. Slumped shoulders, bent neck, some dark circles under my eyes. A couple of co-workers saw me standing next to the coffee pot waiting for it to finish filling up early one Monday morning.

Someone asked about my weekend, and I regaled them with a tale from my daughter’s travel soccer team. As the pair left, one made the comment about how crazy some parents are. All I could do was smile.

My wife and I have two daughters. They are about eight years apart. I have lost count of the number of plays, musicals, band competitions, softball, cross country, volleyball and other events we attended for our oldest daughter, Ashley.

We skipped out on some band competitions citing travel and being too tired, but did attend some others. After her senior night at Rome High, I felt a bit despondent. I couldn’t remember why I missed some of those events and realized they wouldn’t happen again.

Ashley tried out and made the color guard for Georgia Tech’s Band, so her zeal for the activity gave us the opportunity to see more. We managed to make a few games, but I skipped a Thursday contest late in the season. At the time I rationalized it would be crazy, and I was too tired. Turns out, Ashley chose not to do color guard again. She has returned to her drama roots, and we got to see a play she was in a few months ago.

I often hear the pros and cons of travel sports and lots of youth activities. I see people posting photos on social media talking about the benefits and the negative things as well.

I know parents who drive a few hundred miles each week taking their kids to practices only to load up for longer weekend trips for games and performances.

Travel sports had yet to become big business when my sister and I were growing up. Or maybe we just didn’t have the options. But once we entered middle and high school, the two of us stayed late hours at school competing in sports and participating in a slew of activities. 

I’m sure my parents left work early, lost plenty of sleep and put off other vital chores, because they managed to make almost every event we were in. 

Someone pointed out how soccer and show choir tend to rule my life. I tend to have a quick tongue that often out accelerates my brain, but this time my brain kept it in check. I just nodded and smiled. The person saying this has a couple of younger children. Kids who have more than a decade before it’s time to leave for college. 

It’s strange. One minute, you have a litany of events and competitions and long schedules to memorize. The next, it’s all over never to start again. The eight-year age gap between my daughters proved beneficial. And maybe those eight years made me a bit wiser. Parents of younger children don’t think about it. 

I’ve lived it, and I can tell you that when the late-night practices, the long road trips to competitions, the hours of waiting and watching end. It’s brutal. Yes. The weekends are a lot freer. There is plenty of time to do chores around the house or yard work or peruse social media. 

But something is missing. I didn’t have kids just to pat them on the head and send them off to their activities. I want to see my kids perform. I know next to nothing about show choir or color guard, but you better believe I’ve learned as much as possible, so I don’t sound too stupid trying to discuss it. 

And when the opportunity presented itself, I allowed myself to be humbled by a bunch of 20 something’s to obtain my license to coach a travel soccer team. And let me tell you, playing soccer as a 43-year old against a bunch of athletes not far removed from college can be daunting. Two weeks later when the soreness left my body, I was able to begin formulating plans for the team. 

My youngest daughter, Hayley, gave up dance a few months ago. She’s been dancing since she was three. My wife and I hope she goes back, but in the end it’s her choice. I’ve seen almost every recital. I’m sure this spring; I’ll miss seeing her on that stage.

However, I’m lucky. I get a front-row seat to all of her soccer practices and games, although she does have to put up with having her dad as a coach. I know one day, I may have to step away as coach to let someone better take my role. At least it’s not today. 

I hope I made enough of Ashley’s activities, and I am darn sure going to do my best to see as many of Hayley’s as I can. So, when people shake their head when they hear about weekends full of travel, soccer and show choir, I just smile inside. The eight year gap taught me one of life’s toughest lessons. 

You don’t get the time back. You can always catch up on sleep, chores and other things, but you can’t go back and see the game or recitals or practices you missed. 

So, even though you might find me standing next to the coffee pot on a Monday morning with bleary eyes and bad case of fatigue, I will be smiling. Because I’m enjoying every minute of the short time I have, and I know it will be gone far too soon. *The views expressed in this column are those of the writer, and do not represent the opinions of V3 Magazine.

An injury while running at Auburn ended Jim Alred’s long-shot hopes of possibly competing in the Olympics, so he turned to writing and has been crafting award-winning stories across multiple mediums ever since. Along the way he’s been chased by a grizzly bear, worked as Goofy at Walt Disney World, been nominated for two Emmys, interviewed celebrities like Tiger Woods, Bo Jackson, Bill Clinton, coaches his daughters in cross country and soccer and can often be found running with his wife, Tara, around Rome.