Having woken my son at 5am on a Saturday morning, I’ve fed him and got him out the door to sit in a cold rink where I wait for his hockey practice to begin with the mug of coffee that I cling to for warmth and solace. I joke with the other parents, “Who thought this was a good idea?” Yet, we’ve been coming back for 7 years.
Over the course of the 7 years my son has participated in NMHA activities and teams, Matthieu, has grown and learned so much. When he first started playing at the age of 5 as a little Timbit, he could barely skate and after 3 months of the early wake-ups, the complaining that this was too hard and the helmet was heavy and itchy, and watching him flop on the ice and finish all of the drills last, that protective parent doubt began to creep in and I was beginning to think that maybe this was not such a great idea. Then, miraculously, in what seemed like the space of a week, he went from barely standing to flying across the ice. He was sliding, gliding, and having fun. He was hooked!
As a parent, I was happy for him that he was enjoying his new skills which I knew could provide him with a lifetime of opportunity for physical activity and comradery but even more so, I was thrilled that he was learning a very important life lesson. Without knowing it, he was learning so much more than how to skate: he was learning that even when something isn’t easy, you stick with it until you succeed. He was learning to be resilient. And, you know what? I was learning something, too. I was learning the importance of letting him struggle so that he could become resilient. I was learning that my role of Mom wasn’t just to protect him, but to provide him opportunities where he could learn to be resilient in a safe space.
Since these first beginnings, our learning has continued and Matthieu has blossomed. He has learned the satisfaction of belonging to a team and arriving at practice to welcoming cheers of, “Yeah, Matthieu is here!” and I have learned to be grateful that he has a space where he belongs. He is learning that you don’t always win your games, but that it sure is fun to play, and I have learned that it’s ok to let him be disappointed in his losses and to cheer him on anyways. He has learned the value of seeing the bigger picture (what all is going on around me on the ice); of collaborating on plays and of sharing (the puck, the defeat, and the glory), and I have learned to step back and let him have the space to try, to fail and to succeed.
Hockey has brought Matthieu a common ground for conversation with people of all ages, an excellent way to stay fit and healthy, and perhaps most importantly, a lot of joy. As a parent, aside from watching my son grow and learn about hockey and about life, and being happy that he has found an activity that makes him happy, I appreciate that the NMHA has brought us the opportunity to meet and chat with other wonderful hockey families. Hope to see you at the rink sometime, too!