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. 

 

Your Life Changes When You Get Yelled At By A Homeless Man

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My sister married a wonderful American man a few years ago and has been living in the U.S.A ever since. I go down to visit her and my amazing brother-in-law every couple years. (I love my BIL, he’s awesome! Can ya tell??)

They lived in the Philly area. And I love Philadelphia. Ever since the moment I stepped off the plane and into the city, I knew it was the right place for me. And the city loved me too. 

That adoration did not filter to my sister. Philadelphia hates my sister. Every time she tries to do something nice, it bites her in the ass. This is exactly one of those memories. 

We were walking through Center City one afternoon, doing some window shopping and getting some exercise. As we walked, I noticed a few panhandlers and street people (some of whom I was assuming were homeless because of their carts full of random belongings). 

I didn’t have a lot of experienced with people who lived on the streets because I grew up in a small town where homelessness wasn’t much of a problem. If someone didn’t have a place to stay, there was always friends or family to offer a couch or spare room. Everyone knew everyone else and someone was always willing to help out. It’s not like that in big cities. 

When the strangers would say hello, I would try to smile, but I’m sure it looked more like an awkward grimace. My sister, on the other hand, would throw a few coins in their hats or bowls, or whatever they had sitting in front of them, and she’d chat for a minute or two about the weather or other trivial subjects. 

My sis explained to me that she hates when prosperous people ignore people who are less fortunate because half the time it’s not their fault they fell on hard times. She believed they deserved a little bit of dignity and this was her way of giving back. Her logic made sense to me and I respected my sister even more than I already did. 

At lunch time, we hopped in her vehicle and drove a few minutes to a food stand called Gino’s that makes the best cheesesteaks I’ve ever tasted. (While in Philly I was taught they aren’t called Philly Cheesesteaks because it’s kind of redundant. Now I know.) 

As my BIL was getting our order, my sis and I were looking at all the pictures of celebrities that Gino’s hung on the outside walls of the food stand. We saw all kinds of celebs, some we knew, some we didn’t. 

I need to interject here and explain that my sister and I were going to a NKOTB/Backstreet Boys concert the week that I was visiting, so it thoroughly impressed my sister when she saw a picture of the BSB hanging on the wall. 

She literally pointed it out to me when a homeless man was walking by, stopped in his tracks, stared at my sister, and yelled, “DON’T POINT. THAT’S RUDE.” Without waiting for an answer, he continued on his merry way. 

Like I said, I didn’t have a lot of experience with homeless people, and I was too scared to blink so I just stared at my sister with wide eyes, wondering if this man was about to pull out a knife and hurt us. 

My sister, having more courage than me, knit her eyebrows together, gave the man an exasperated look, and shouted, “WHAT THE FUCK…?” as he continued to walk away unfazed. 

Then she turned to me and said, “what the fuck was that about??” To which I just shrugged and thought to myself, “how the hell should I know? You’re the one who sympathizes with them.” 

After being yelled at by a homeless man about our manners (or lack of), I kind of had to wonder about my position in life. I mean, really, how bad are our manners if a homeless man is making comments?