As parents, we generally don’t like to see our kids upset, feeling deflated, and unhappy. So when my then six-year-old son was struggling through hockey (he was not exactly thrilled about his weekly ice time…and yes, there were tears) I thought that was our very clear clue to pack up the skates (and the rest of the gear…oh the gear!) and bid farewell to the arena.
I realize now – and perhaps even then – that I was clearly bringing my own biases into the conversation. Despite growing up in Toronto, ours was not a “hockey family” – so I didn’t quite get what all the fuss was about. Of course, I know Canadians and hockey go together like, well…Canadians and hockey….but I never personally felt a strong bond with the sport (no dirty looks please…read on…that’s changed!) Even though I have such happy memories of my own experience on my school softball team, where hockey was concerned, I zoomed in on the inconveniences and drawbacks which clearly didn’t allow me to see much of the good. I failed to spend time considering the team aspect of the game as I was too focused on one cold hard fact – my son did not seem happy at all. Not to mention, my husband and I are both building careers, and catering to the demands of three young children (and trying to build fun and meaning into our everyday lives while we’re at it). So, I was (very) okay with dropping one thing from our plates. Or at least potentially swapping it with a less demanding activity.
Quite simply, I was narrow-minded. The same way I admittedly dismiss most fantasy and sci-fi movies as content I simply won’t enjoy (except for The Never Ending Story…go Falkor!) But seriously, I realize at times I dismiss things too early based on pre-conceived ideas…and this experience has taught me a very important lesson. (Though I still don’t think I could get into Game of Thrones…let’s just leave it okay? Sorry!)
My husband, on the other hand, when faced with my son’s icy tears, had different plans. He confirmed that many kids at that age have similar emotions…and waterworks. They are learning a new skill (and a technically difficult one at that) and it’s simply a steep/sharp (!) learning curve. He didn’t think letting him quit at such a young age was the right thing to do – or the right message to send.
I trusted my husband’s instinct and my son marched – or skated – on. And truth be told, my husband did most rink shifts. In some ways, I think I kept hockey at arm’s length because I couldn’t bear to see my son sad (or even bear to see the gap in skill level between him and the other kids his age). But by doing so, I probably missed some special moments and some wonderful growth. Thinking about this makes me a little sad…but I’m not dwelling on the past, especially because now I’m all in! (Did you know there’s a special term for hockey moms…mom-sicles!?) In the meantime, my younger son’s foray into Canada’s favourite pastime has been smoother. He has loved it from day one – and not just because of the zamboni or the Tim Horton’s stops after games!
Fast forward about three years…
My nine-year-old son just spent the weekend in Guelph for a tournament as a happy, thriving member of the Willowdale Blackhawks Single A hockey team. He is not the best on his team by any means (some of these kids are unreal!) But with a little help from an important mom/dad/son talk at the beginning of the season (discouraging feelings were creeping in again), and consistent cheerleading from us and his coaches (thank you!), he is truly shining in his own way.
I’ve always known success is such a mental game – but I’m seeing it so clearly first hand. Once we said to him “why can’t YOU be the one to get the puck? Instead of assuming someone “better” will always get it first” something clicked. His effort, drive, and confidence shot up! And his coaches, team members, and even other parents are taking notice.
And even though he has yet to score a goal, I’m beaming too. Seeing him so happy…well, that’s what parents live for, right?! And it sounds so cliché, but I’ll say it anyway – the bonds he is forming with the other fourteen boys is truly special. The confidence he is gaining as he sees – and feels – himself improve, is amazing. And the smile on his face in the picture my husband sent me of the boys at their post-game dinner out, is priceless.
To my husband, thank you for encouraging him to persist, persevere, and believe in himself. You were right! 🙂
For as long as it lasts, we’re officially a hockey family – rink time is no longer just a daddy thing. It’s a family thing. As my eleven-year-old daughter has seen me get into it, she’s equally pumped and attends as many games as possible, as long as they don’t conflict with her own full dance schedule. And you know what…I don’t even mind all the gear anymore. Perspective….go figure.
It’s amazing what can happen when you open your mind…and that stinky hockey bag.