Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The good old hockey game..

I tell this story often, but it is a fact that in the chaos surrounding Oliver's birth, when my mum gasped "it's a boy!", the first words out of my mouth were "He won't play hockey". Although it was probably an inappropriate reaction to the reality of the situation, it was a totally appropriate way to begin life as a mother because there is really only one constant truth in motherhood - your children will make liars of you at every chance.

Oliver doesn't just enjoy hockey. Oliver lives and breathes hockey. In the morning, Oliver checks the newspaper for stories about hockey in the sports section. He assigns player names to each of us each day (you're generally either a "Kessle" or a "Riemer"), and if you won't indulge him in a game with the mini sticks, he'll grab any stick-like object (spatula, drumstick, you name it) and bat around any puck-like object he can find, frantically trying to score on you while you go about your other business. The question most often asked in our home, after "why?" is "will you play hockey with me?"

And try as I might, I just can't muster up any enthusiasm when I say "Yes".

Listen, I love to play with Oliver. I can play lego all day. Give me a fort, a sword fight, a bug collection, train sets, crafts, old cardbord box, you name it - I'm game. But hockey. I. Just. Can't.

It isn't even just a sports thing. Although I definitely was never into sports in my youth, I can completely appreciate the joy in playing an active game now. There's a certain simple grace and beautiful athleticism on display in soccer. Basketball is a great way to while away hours, just bouncing and shooting a ball or maneuvering around other players on the court, strategizing. Baseball is, well, boring.. but I can dig a game of catch.

Try as I might though, I really can't get into the hockey. It's a graceless, clumsy looking, scrabble-y, fighting, sweaty and cold at the same time, game. And in the house? That's just standing in front of a net while someone just shoots on you over and over again with no variety. I truly can't think of anything more boring.

A few months ago I read Madeline Levine's Teach Your Children Well. It's rare that I read a "parenting book", but this one really spoke to my values about raising kids. She made the argument that the most important skill that a child can develop is enthusiasm. Enthusiasm for anything - just the ability to be enthusiastic means that a child is engaged and thriving.

Oliver has no shortage of enthusiasm for anything at all (seriously, the kid's a one-toddler pep rally 24/7), but I keep telling myself that this enthusiasm for hockey is just one more indication that he's a bright and vibrant kid who loves to learn and engage with the world. That reassurance is what gets me through nightmares about 5 a.m. hockey practices, and having a kid who wears matching team jackets with a bunch of other kids to school.

The upside of Oliver's love of hockey is that it is something he shares with his Dad. Although Chris has never actually been the type to watch a game (which makes it all the more baffling to me that Oliver is so obsessed), he plays once a week with his friends, and was on teams for all of his youth. It was a really important aspect of his socialization, and I know he loves that he can share that with Ollie.

I just so deeply wish his favorite thing was something I love too or that I could learn to love it, but I really don't think I have it in me. Kids know when you're faking it, and he's going to realize soon enough that there's only one thing mummy hates to play, and it's his very favorite thing. Until then I step into the net when I have to but I confess that I do my best to distract him with his other loves as much as I can.

And although I'd never take away the joy he gets from hockey, I do have my fingers crossed that he'll outgrow it organically ... before he passes it on to his brother!

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