Managing The Rink – Parental Delusions

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This is my son’s fifth year of hockey. He’s had a lot of fun with friends and met new people along the way. He works hard on the ice and he learns new things almost every day. 

My son had been in power-skating for the first three years. Before each season, a friend of mine put on power-skating clinics. I signed up my son so he could get his skating legs back after a long summer. As well, it’s a good way to condition the body back into physical mode in preparation for hockey season. It’s intense and it’s not cheap. 

My intentions were good when I signed him up every year. I wanted to help him become a better skater because he was never the strongest skater on his teams. I wanted to help him catch up to some of the other, more naturally gifted hockey players. But it was all in vain. 

My assumptions, that my kid wanted to grow up and become a hockey player like every other Canadian kid, were so very wrong. Like a lot of other hockey parents, I felt the pressure to help my kid become the best in case he wanted to take his hockey career further as an adult. 

In his third year of hockey, I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. I asked, “do you want to be a hockey player?” To which he turned up his nose and replied, “heck, no! I don’t want to play hockey in the NHL ever.” To say I was surprised would be an understatement. On the other hand, the pressure to help my son be the top player on his teams was relieved. It was a wake up call for me.

I took a step back and realized that, in my quest to make my son the best he could be, I was forgetting to enjoy the moment. I was forgetting to let him enjoy the game. I was forgetting to let him be who he was. I was attempting to make him be who I wanted him to be. 

It’s been two years now and my son hasn’t returned to power-skating. It was tough to explain to my friend why my son wouldn’t be filling the spot in power-skating that she loyally held for him each season, but she completely understood. And, yes, we’re still friends. 

Now, I still see other parents (a lot of them) who are trying to help their kids be the most elite players in the league. It’s hard to watch. It’s even harder to fathom the idea that I was once one of those parents.

There’s no pressure for him to be the best. As I sit back and watch other parents giving their kids the gears about what they did wrong on the ice, I shake my head in dismay. I feel awful for those kids. I listen to the coaches yelling from the dressing rooms and I wince. This is house league minor hockey and really shouldn’t be taken that seriously. I hear comments in the stands from other parents who can’t accept their kids for who they are and I thank god that I’m not one of them anymore. 

For us, now, it’s not all about winning. It’s all about improving, having fun, enjoying the games and the people, and learning. And my son is thoroughly enjoying his time in hockey without the power-skating during pre-season. And I’m happy to stand back and watch my son have fun. It’s liberating to not feel the pressure of turning my son into something he might never become. Maybe he’ll play house league forever. Maybe he’ll quit next season and try something new, like curling. I can’t predict the future. But what I can predict is that I will support him in whatever he wants to do.

My lesson learned: let kids be who they are instead of making them into what you want them to be. 

 

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