Knowing what I know now, and having asked my kids recently for their thoughts, below is the first of three things I wish I knew when we started this hockey trek.
- Spiritual: Make sure they have fun, then watch them fall in love with the game.
As parents we want to expose our kids to all sorts of things. Oftentimes the things we expose them to are things we are familiar with and enjoy – sports, music, the outdoors, mime school (okay, maybe not mime school). Whatever extra-curricular activities we place our kids, whether because we put them there or they asked, we (almost always) oh-so-hope they enjoy it (read: mime school).
If your child is young, 5 years old or so, and you’ve made the crazy… Eer, I mean great decision to place him/her in hockey, just know YOU will be doing all the hard work for the first couple of years. Besides the actual work you have to perform to afford equipment and ice-time, you will also, most likely, be in charge of making sure their hockey bag has everything in it, helping to get their equipment on, including skates – which you will have to lace and tie for them (a note of caution: hockey players and most 5 year olds are very similar in some ways, they each are very particular about how their skates are laced and how loose or tight they are – which can sometimes drive a parent to an early morning cocktail or two), making sure they have their mouth guard in correctly (“stop playing with it and take it out of your glove!”), as well as their neck guard, and then helping them get to the ice without impaling some innocent person with their hockey stick. When all this is said and done, you get to either:
- Leave to run around and get groceries, or
- Run home and do laundry, or
- Take your other child(ren) to their various activities, or
- Go eat breakfast because you fed everyone else this morning but yourself, or
- Other “stuff” – this means possibly going to a bar… or,
- Stay at the rink
You do this knowing you are on the clock. Should you leave the rink, you have to be back at the rink to not only pick up your kiddo, but meet him/her in the locker room to undo what you just did about an hour ago – skates off, mouthguard back in glove (ew), the rest of equipment off, make sure everything is in bag, grab stick, grab kid and go!
So, initially, it is you who may hate it, which can easily be transmitted to your easily-influenced child. Try not to do this.
I have yet to meet a 4 to 6-year-old, just beginning to learn how to skate and play hockey, who has come off the ice and said “I hate it”. I’ve heard lots of other things from their little mouths: “When can I go back out?”, “I get to go to MacDonald’s now”, “That boy wiped his booger on me”, are a few things I’ve heard. But the kids are always smiling – and they want to do more of it. Yet, if Mom or Dad is grouchy and kinda mean (and I’m talking about being mean and grouchy on a regular basis, because we do all have bad days) when it’s time to get to hockey, and when it’s time to put the equipment on and when it’s time to lace and tie the skates, your kid is going to feed off that mean and grouchy - it won’t be fun for anyone. I beg of you to take a deep breath, look into the eyes of your kiddo and remember this is but a fleeting moment. Whether they play hockey for the rest of their lives, quit after one season, or tell you they want to be a figure skater, it is these moments we take for granted – these actual one-on-one moments with our kids. As they grow, your kids will need you less (except as the ATM machine). You will find yourself wishing they asked you to lace up their skates and help tie them just one more time. I know this, because this is where I am.
Eventually, some kids will want to stop playing hockey, maybe play another sport or a musical instrument or strive to become a gaming phenom, or maybe that mime school worked out after all. Whatever they decide, I like to think that we, as parents, will talk-out such decisions with our kids and try our best to understand why they want to continue an activity, or stop it. And I hope we all realize and take-in, even relish, those moments when we are lucky enough to watch our kids fall in love with what they like to do.