It’s cold, so cold that you feel like you smell it, or even taste it in the air. Your bones feel frigid and brittle. The sounds are loud and clear; blades on the ice, sticks tapping and pucks thumping. The kids are covered from head to toe, helmet to tightly laced skates. The parents are huddled together because we know it is warmer if we sit as a pack. Our kids are still little to us, mostly 9 and 10 years old. They are at that sweet spot where they still want their moms to lay with them at night when they tuck them in. They still take their well-loved blanket or stuffed animal to their friend’s house for a sleepover. They still cry sometimes when they get hurt. Although they are still our babies, they are full of energy and strength on the ice.
You can hear the coaches shout over the clang and clatter of the sticks and skates. They are told from the beginning to fall on purpose, so that they can be taught how to get back up and get going again. A lesson that carries over to life even off of the ice. When they are inside that rink they are safe. There will be bruises and bumps but their hearts will stay intact. Their coaches and their teammates have their backs, they are there to protect and defend them no matter what. I can’t tell you how many times I wish that I could keep him bubble wrapped, to keep him in that hockey equipment all the time, to protect him from things that I know are going hurt him in life, both physically and emotionally. As parents we shout and cheer from the stands, even though the kids can’t really hear us, and I think that may be a good thing. The boards and the glass provide a temporary shelter of sorts. It’s just them and their team. For one hour they are exactly where they want to be, doing exactly what they want to do. If only we could pause time, things could stay this simple for just a while longer.
I watch as my son skates by with a goofy grin on his face, his disintegrated mouth guard being chewed like bubble gum. His smile is genuine. His dedication sincere. He doesn’t whine or complain when he has to go to bed early and then wake up before dawn for a 6:30 puck drop, in fact he is often the first one up in the house. The kids are taught to carry their oversized bags, stuffed so heavy and so full of their equipment they are sometimes bigger than the kids. Practices and games are intense, requiring discipline and dedication. When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, my son will tell you, in a very matter of fact of manner, that he wants to be an NHL hockey player. And while the future is certainly unwritten, he gets a few hours each week to play, to live his dream, where anything is possible.
There is an innocence to this age, and with that comes a purity to the game. During a tumble and fall with a particularly rough team, we watched one of the players on my son’s team pick up a member of the opposing team’s stick and hand it back to him. We laughed as manners are not exactly useful when it comes to winning a hockey game. These kids are so nice off the ice it’s often hard to teach them to change that behavior when they are on the ice. And if we have to choose for them to be one way or the other, I’d choose to have the kid who might have lost the game but took the time to hand back a stick.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to see his team win, sometimes I think as parents we want to see them win even more than they do. We want them to taste victory, to watch them huddle and hug each other after a goal. We watch them work so hard and we want to see them rewarded. But I also want them to keep their smiles on when they get off of the ice. And win or lose, they do. I believe this is a testament to great coaching and supportive parents who show up just to watch their kids do something they enjoy. Most of us don’t really mind the cold that much anymore. We just want to be able to be there to watch our kids play.
I don’t know that I’ve ever given that kind of dedication to anything. I don’t know that I’ve been that passionate or that disciplined. I know how much I love my family, I know how much I love my job, but as an adult the innocence is gone and is replaced with a nagging sense of pessimism. Obligations of too much to do and not enough time feel constant. We beat up ourselves with negative thoughts and guilt, too often not feeling good enough. There is no coach to tell us to keep our heads in the game, no team to feed us energy, not enough shouting from the stands. I never made it onto a sports team. Truth be told I have about as much athletic ability as a fish on a bicycle. But I realize now that most of the reason I wanted to play sports was because I wanted to be a part of something. I wanted that uniform, that jersey that told people I was included. I wanted a team to have my back, to lock eyes with me when I walked in a room and felt like an outsider. I wanted to not feel so insecure.
I still stink at sports but I think I have excelled at being a part of many teams. I had to let go of fear, insecurity and pride. I have to reach out and introduce myself to strangers. I have to talk to people, even sometimes if I don’t know what to say or if I say the wrong thing. I’ve learned it’s okay. I don’t wait for others to yell out their support. I call my friends and ask them to coach me through the hard parts in life, to push me along when I ask for help, to cheer for me when I need encouragement. And more importantly I’ve learned how good it feels to do the same for them.
My son’s team didn’t make the playoffs this year, and that’s okay. Because they made plenty of other things. They made advancements in their hockey skills. They learned how to lose gracefully. They made new friendships. They learned social and emotional skills it has taken me years to discover. The learned how to be a part of a team.
*Insider Tip – Buy for winter in the spring.
When it comes to looking fashionable in the ice rink it’s all about warmth. We are more likely to ooh and ahh over each others fuzzy lined boots and furry hats. Consider sometimes we are getting up before 5 am all the bundling up can actually be a good thing. A cute hat will cover up pretty much any kind of bed head. And a long down jacket means you can pretty much be in your pajamas underneath. As for shoes I’m all about that fleece. And Uggs may be ugly but they keep my feet from feeling like they are going to fall off. I know we are all desperate to go buy flip flops and short sleeves but if you need to replenish any of your cold weather wear the time to do so is right now. Check out online brands for the best discounts for winter gear. Patagonia, Lands End and Athleta all have great jackets, gloves and hats for more than 50% off the original price.
I’m kind of obsessing over this very long jacket from Athleta.
Nordstrom has Uggs on sale and guess what? Not all of them are ugly! The company has started to make many leather and waterproof styles, even some with a wedge or a slight heel so you don’t get those achy feet from the flat boots.
But shop quickly as they will soon be gone. So although you may not need them for March, you will thank me when the polar vortex returns with revenge next December!