“Dad, why aren’t you helping during baseball practice anymore?” A question from my son, a question I knew was coming and even with that I still had no idea how to answer. I knew we shouldn’t lie to our children yet the battlefield I crawled through definitely had many times where honesty was not even part of my actions or vocabulary. Now I was trying to move the ball down the field at least in the right direction and this was not the first barrier I had encountered but was maybe one of the most emotional. I sat my son down and well, ok, I chose the easier path as I explained to him “You know I’m not sure, maybe I did something wrong and they just want to help direct me to get better at helping with the team.” Granted it wasn’t really a lie, but it wasn’t the truth either. I just really felt bad and didn’t want to explain or even travel over the whole “Well people are really protective of their children and who has access to them especially one-on-one access” when possibly this whole thing would work out and I could return to helping out the team.
Well, it was Saturday and it seemed as though the clock had stopped moving or at best it was moving very slow. I couldn’t sleep much the night before as you can imagine with the not knowing, the uncertainty, what was going to happen, and the humility I felt which would soon be public information. “Stop! Stop! Stop!” I told myself. “Just wait and see!” Again, I allowed my what-ifs to overpower my whole being and it was totally exhausting. Ok so I hadn’t been sleeping well, none last night, I looked terrible from worry and now I was thinking “These people are going to think I’m actively using drugs after taking one look at my appearance.” It was 8 am so even though the distance from our home to the ball field was only a 15-minute trip I had to go as I surely didn’t want to be late.
“Mr. Hyland thank you for coming please have a seat!” Now, granted I had been judged by people before today, hell the parole board was tough, but here I sat in a single chair facing six Little League Board Members, regular moms, and dads from the community, this was going to be different. After some introductions and small talk and we went right into “Mr. Hyland we have called you today because upon receiving your background report we wanted to address some of the items noted. It appears you have some drug charges which caused you to be sentenced to prison. Is this true?” “Yes Ma’am.” She then asked “How long were you in Prison?” “What time are you referring to I ask?” and think to myself “Now that was stupid.” “In total,” she asks to which I reply “I believe it was about 3 and half years.” “I see. Was this here in Texas?” I’m thinking that’s a weird question, “No Ma’am it was mostly at San Quentin and Folsom in California.” Well, that did it. If the others weren’t paying attention before, they sure are now after hearing me say San Quentin and Folsom Prison. “I see. Are you presently on parole?” “No Ma’am, I have successfully completed my parole. One for my side. “Well, Mr. Hyland we really don’t have an issue with these types of charges and usually overlook them with some positive history as you have.” See, I told you it would be fine.
“BUT Mr. Hyland there is also a gun charge here on your arrest record which really concerns us here and we don’t see any way this can be overlooked. We have discussed this in-depth and had numerous people speak positively on your behalf, but our concern is the optics especially with other parents. We are sorry but we are going to have to uphold our decision to ban you from personal involvement with the children going forward. We want you to know we are thankful for your work up to this point.” Really? What does that even mean? We are thankful but no thank you?
As I left the room, I was very heavy with anger, embarrassment, and insecurity. I felt very sorry not only for myself but for my son who I now had to sit down with and explain the truth of why I could no longer have any contact with his buddies on the team.
I did sit down with my son and we had that conversation. Since then, we have had many other conversations over the years in regards to my past actions, my bad choices, and my battle with addiction that affected many other people in my life as well as my future for what I would like to say was only a few years but in fact was forever. Like many other parents raising children I had those sayings, those lessons I repeated over and over to the point where my children would even say them back to me. I would tell them “Things you do today will determine your tomorrow!” Not only would they hear this from me they visually saw this play out over and over in my life. As a Project Manager with 20 plus employees on my team, I was often required to do a background check for certain jobs. On many occasions it usually came out fine, but each and every time my mind went back to that day in the Little League Field House, sitting in that chair facing those same six faces and thinking “I’m the boss, what would I even do if I was rejected and could not work and lead my crew?” Even as recent as a few years ago with it being 33 years past my last conviction I found myself needing a background check while volunteering with a local agricultural non-profit. Even though I was working in the background doing maintenance and grounds upkeep, I was occasionally around children. So even though those convictions were a long time ago and I had a positive track record for many years, and there most likely would not have been a problem, the fog of “what if’s” overcame me and I just chose the path of less resistance and resigned from the position.
“Things you do today will determine your tomorrow!” Oh, and by the way, that son on the Little League team eventually enlisted in the Army and after returning from his last deployment in Afghanistan became a State Trooper.