My son is a sweet boy. He’s mine so of course I love him to pieces. But, as I would tell you about any of my children I love them for all their “stuff”. I love their victories. I love good grades. I love when they score. I love their hugs. I love their humor. But, I love their faults. I secretly love their snide remarks (still punishable, but somehow courageous). I love them pushing the boundaries and getting the rude awakening of being put back into place. I love when they have to get through a hard lesson. I love what others call a weakness, because I know it is to be their greatest strength with a bit or lots of perseverance they can overcome. Hockey for my boy has done all these things and more. Overcoming your fears is the greatest lesson that I could teach and for any one of us to learn.
My girls have their activities picked out right away. I wanted my son to try a sport during the winter months. So, I tried to point him in every direction except hockey. I had grown up playing baseball as a kid. Hockey has a heartbeat all its own in this area. The families live and breathe it and are unavailable during most weekends through the season. Weekends are so sacred to me that even I had a difficult task of allowing that to be given up for a sport that I didn’t feel any ties to. I offered him taekwondo. I said he could break a board. He would learn to kick his sister’s butts. He said, “Mom, I don’t like them very much but I don’t want to hurt them.” I was joking, I told him. But, it didn’t change it for him.
He told me he would play soccer, but all we have locally is an outdoor season and it isn’t until the spring. I said that isn’t going to work since as soon as you hear the purr of the tractor you’ll drop soccer leaving me to try to get my money back.
I had a bit of hockey equipment sitting in the shed but as September had started I wasn’t mentioning it except in light whispers and when he was asleep. The season had begun. I was resisting to ask him about it, but one afternoon I had asked him again.
“What do you want to do?”
He said, “I’d play hockey or soccer.”
“Why hockey?” Turning away so not to show my shocked face.
“Because my friends play it.”
Huh. So, I said ok. I went out the next day and bought the next few pieces we needed. I brought them home and told him ok, we will put you in hockey. He freaked out. He screamed no. I’m not doing that. They will laugh at me. And for reasons unknown to me I spent the time to calmly convince him to try at least once. He tried on the equipment and ran around the house like he was a Transformer.
The night of practice rolled around and he fought it. He didn’t want to go and told me all his fears of why it wasn’t a good idea for him. For a seven year old he was very articulate. I paused for a moment and thought I don’t want to go either. But, with a sigh, I told him I will help you get dressed, I will watch you participate and you need to try at least once. He got his coat and boots on and drove to the arena. I talked about how everyone feels nervous the first time. I told him just try your best and that every time you go you will get better and better. I told him stories of his sister’s trying things and feeling nervous too. He nodded and listened and only asked that I stay at the arena and watch.
He went out on the ice. He fell countless times. Parents were coming and going through the arena teasing me about being a hockey mom. I was honest and said I am not happy about it. I watched my kid be told by the coaches on what drill was next, or waited for him to skate over to join the other kids since he was always last. I couldn’t hear what they had to say and with my son’s helmet on I had no clue what his face would reveal about how he was feeling.
Time was up and practice was officially over. I headed downstairs to the dressing room. He saw me and waited for me to approach and said, I’m so proud of myself. And in that moment all my hating of hockey and being the hockey mom broke away. I was taken to the most primitive place of love and admiration. My boy was to be forever changed by this moment. He liked it, but as his mom I knew that most blessed part of this whole thing was that his voice inside was now full of courage. I can do it. If I practice I can get better at it. If I work hard and listen to the coaches I will get better. And, if I try new things that it can be mastered.
He has learned a lot and I’m sure some of that is the game of hockey, but for me he has learned a lot about life. He’s had coaches and kids on the team say things to him which he questions and we talk about it. He can roll with the punches and find that voice inside that says I got this and I’m ok. Hockey is just the sport that has taught him some things on this path and in truth it could have been another sport had we lived in another area that offered more choices, but now I wouldn’t change it. It was growth for me too. I was nervous about it as well, but it is what we make of it.
My want for my kids will always be success, but I know the difficulties will be the most pivotal changes to be overcome. His success with hockey is not mine. It is his. If this goes any further to him it will be great, but to me, my goal is not trying to get him advanced at the game, but to use the tools presented in his life to shape him into an adult so that he knows how to overcome problems and can handle new things that will enter his life again and again. In that, I am grateful.
Dedicated to R.B. and of course to my Bubby.