Hockey teaches some other lessons, too, lessons I’m not quite ready for

July 6th, 2011

The hockey, it’s good. It’s also good that we have a break from now until the 25th (at which point they go onto the ice in the professional arena and the trainings move to a more reasonable afternoon time slot), because the schlepping back and forth and the Small Boy eating dinner in the car twice a week is suboptimal. It’s a price I’m ready to pay, but it’s suboptimal.

It’s also good to have break until the 25th to give the Small Boy time to get over his outrage at his trainer, who handed out perfect attendance awards after the final training tonight. An award which the Small Boy did not get (five kids out of 39 did) because he missed one training because it conflicted with a school play, and he’s pretty outraged about it. Not, exactly, about not getting the award, which was an SCB cap and scarf, but about the perceived injustice of it. He only missed the training because he was in a school play that he had to go to on the evening of the second training of the summer. The kindergarten had started practicing the play before we ever had a summer training schedule. It was a school thing. He had the lead role. It wasn’t his fault that he missed a training. It’s not as if he missed one because he didn’t feel like going, or was lazy, or we forgot, or just didn’t feel like it. It was a school thing. It’s not fair. (And it’ll likely happen again at some point, because in this house when there is a direct conflict between hockey and school, school will win. Until he’s 16 and can decide for himself, the rule is that school will win.)

I can see the Small Boy’s point that it wasn’t fair, especially when I see through the eyes of a Kindergartener, and I don’t entirely disagree with him, but it’s one of those tricky parenting moments when I’m supposed to be on his side, and agree that it’s not fair, and still teach him that coaches get to make their own rules and if you want to play on the team, you play by the coach’s rules and, by the way, life is unfair and you have to figure out how to roll with that. All while not undermining the coach’s authority along the way. Any tips?

I feel for him. He did everything right. He even, last week, chose to leave a birthday party – a swimming pool birthday party – 30 minutes early so that he would get to training on time. What kind of six year old kid decides that, on his own? I gave him the choice between staying at the party to the end and getting to training late; staying to the party to the end and skipping the training altogether (my preferred option, frankly); or leaving the party early to get to training on time and he said “Klar!” (because he speaks to me in German entirely too often these days) “doch logisch gehe ich ins Training. Hol mir einfach fruh ab.” (“That’s easy! Of course I’m going to training. Just pick me up early.”) Again, I ask you, what kind of six year old kid makes that kind of a choice? A really enthusiastic and committed one, and I’m hurt on his behalf that his commitment wasn’t recognized and honored. Of course he thinks it’s unfair. He’s not wrong.

He’ll get recognition from me (I’ve got plans, and they involve cake), but it’s not what he really wants. What he really wants is recognition from his coaches; he always has. These men who play such a role in his life. They’re going to teach him, and sometimes praise him, and sometimes break his heart, and I’m reminded again of what the head of the hockey school said to us parents once, thanking us for trusting the trainers with our children. The Small Boy’s puck control improved by leaps and bounds this summer and for that I’m grateful, but he got his heart broken just a little bit too and for that, well for that I’m sad even as I recognize that it’s part of sports and part of life.

He’s asleep now, the teary sleep of a six year old who didn’t get the reward that he genuinely believes he earned. And I’m typing this, the teary typing of a mother who agrees with him. Oh life in all your complicated unfairness, must you come knocking on his door so early?