The sun has not yet risen. My alarm goes off quietly and I slip out of bed, throwing on my clothes. I tiptoe to Anna’s room and jostle her gently. She’s still sleepy, so I pick her up and carry her downstairs, letting her wake up on the coziness of the couch. Her clothes are laid out and cereal is waiting in the bowl. I’ve tried to let us sleep as long as possible, but getting dressed in hockey equipment on these early, chilly weekend mornings can’t be rushed, or she’ll protest and wake everyone up. I run out to warm up the van as she eats and starts to perk up, stifling the last yawns. We get into the van, shivering in the cold, as I try to drum up some enthusiasm for hockey practice. Eventually, we find some.
I’m totally kidding. I never do this. But my husband does.
Anna started playing hockey last year and, much to our delight, loved it. I grew up in a hockey family, so it was natural for us to sign her up, and we figured a girl like Anna needed something very active to help get the crazies out.
I love watching Anna play, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized I’d shoveled off all the hockey duties to Sean. It’s not a gender thing — I’m the last person who would see hockey as a “boy’s” sport — but somehow it’s become a dad thing in our house. I’m perfectly capable of getting Anna dressed and on the ice, but there’s no debate: Sean is the one who gets up every weekend to take her, now often bringing Avery along, too, on practice days. (Anna has one practice and one game per week, and I just attend the games.) How did I luck out here?
And is it a bad thing? I don’t know. I take care of a lot of other things, and I’m ok with hockey being something Sean can “own.”
We weren’t sure how it was going to go this year for Anna, honestly. She started off more with a whimper than a bang, lying on the ice through many practices. At games, she’d float around during her shifts, oblivious to where the puck was. I could see Sean getting concerned, but I figured she’s only five, and she’s just getting back into it after a long summer break. I asked Anna if she was enjoying hockey this year, and she was enthusiastic, so that’s what’s important to me. But I wondered if maybe she’d forgotten what it was all about. “You look like a butterfly out there, just gliding around. Can you try to be a bumblebee?”
I think last week she found her groove, and started chasing after the puck, scoring four awesome goals. We were a little shocked, and she was so excited after the game.
One of Anna’s teammates from last year is now playing on the “rep” team for players who are more advanced, I guess. She’s only seven. The jaw-dropping cost for the season was two thousand dollars, plus there’s travel with hotels and food and all those added expenses. I lived that life when my sisters played hockey, spending many of our winter weekends away at hotels and arenas and I admit it brings back some not-so-fond memories.
I’m not saying Anna is at that caliber, but part of me secretly hopes she doesn’t get there. I hope Anna always loves to play, and I’ll always be her biggest fan, but is it bad for me to hope she is just a decent player who tries her best and has fun, but doesn’t excel? If what I’ve seen around me is any indication, hockey becomes your whole life, and I’m not sure I want hockey to become our whole life. There are so many other things I know she’d enjoy, and I’d hate for those opportunities to get squeezed out.
I’m realizing now that it started with parent-and-tot skating. I don’t skate, so Sean had to be the parent, which he is now doing with Avery. Maybe it set a standard that the arena is Dad’s domain. Avery loves going to skating class and is doing really well, by the way. And the girl is so eager to play hockey — that’s what she sees as the next step after you learn to skate. Sigh. Maybe I am destined to spend my life at the rink.
Does your child play on a rep team? Do you embrace the experience or resent it? And do any of you happily shovel off certain activity duties to your spouse?
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