Editor’s Note

There’s a lot to worry about as a parent. It’s never what’s happening to you as a result of your actions, but what’s happening to your children because of them. You just don’t want to mess them up.

I can probably write a topic a week about this. But for now, I’m going to focus on sports.

Full disclosure: If I could redo my childhood I’d tell my parents that I want to play hockey. I played soccer and baseball from the time I could run until I was 18; my soccer career officially ended after one year of college.

I love everything about hockey. Before my sons were ever born, I knew I wanted to have my children least try it. We started teaching my son how to skate at the age of 3. It seemed pretty typical at that age, days of excitement and days of sheer horror. It felt normal that there were good and bad days, I assume most kids are pretty fickle about new things. Am I screwing him up at this point? Not yet.

The following season, we signed him up to play hockey. I figured the gear and the stick would get him jazzed about the idea. It HAD to be better than his first year, one in which I failed as a parent and allowed him to be one of the few kids wearing a bike helmet. Sorry, Landon.

Pretty much the same as the first year, there were ups and downs. He’s only 4, this still seemed normal. And I’m not talking tantrums and crying about getting him on the ice. He was never like that, just a little disinterested at times.

By this time he was finally starting to skate on his own and with both feet. He liked to only push off with his dominant leg for a while, a common thing. Seeing his improvement, I didn’t want him to forget how to skate before the start of his third season. I signed him up for a spring/summer league in Buffalo; it was only once a week but this meant he was only away from hockey for two months out of the entire year. Am I screwing him up at this point? Maybe.

Year three: his first full year as a Mite. His skating is slowly improving and now it’s more about trying to compete for the puck, pass and shoot. Although at this age no kid is looking to try and pass the puck. His attitude is similar to years past; maybe even a little bit more disinterested at times. He doesn’t like to fight for the puck or do strenuous drills. He has fun during the practice drills, especially tag. If that kid skated as fast as he does when he’s escaping the coaches he’d be phenomenal.

I signed him up for a second season of spring/summer. He was not interested at this point. No tantrums about it, but pretty much a “come on you’re going” kind of thing. We finally made it through the challenge of learning to skate and learning to play the game. I wrestled with the idea of just saying OK, you tried it and that’s enough. But he’s 6 at this point. Does he even know what he wants? Am I screwing him at this point? Probably?

It wasn’t a very fun summer season. His coach wasn’t exactly hands-on so there was no growth in his game and he seemed like he plateaued. I should have mentioned earlier, but over the previous two years we would go to open skate as a family. Watching my son skate freely without any equipment on was beautiful to watch. I’m not just talking him up because he’s my kid, believe me, but his stride was pretty awesome. So I always kept that in the back of my mind when making decisions to keep him from quitting. I knew he could skate he just needed to want to.

By the end of the summer season we were getting busy as a family and we ended up just saying to hell with his last two games of the season. Something I hate to do and something we never do. We always tell the kids if you commit to something you’re going to finish it. We broke our own rule this time and Landon was pretty OK about it.

I changed my mind repeatedly about signing him up for hockey this season as the summer went along. Considering his luke-warm attitude near the end of the summer season and the cost for the fall season it was a difficult decision to make. After much internal debate I signed him up – crazy dad alert. My reasoning was that he knew how to skate and he had nothing else. I don’t need him to want to play every sport under the sun; he’s not programmed like that. But I do want him to have at least one social activity outside of school.

I wondered what his first long break from hockey would do to him. To my surprise, he was actually getting excited about his first practice. A few of his school friends returned to the team; the new coach was talking about off-ice events like movies and bowling; and the practices were moved to early morning (when he has the most energy). Everything seems to be working out nicely and he’s been excited about it. He asks if he has hockey each day and is sad when I tell him “no.” His skating is the best it’s been and he’s starting to handle the puck better.

I don’t need him to be an NHL player when he grows up and I don’t need him to be the best on the ice. I want him to try his best and have fun. Being a part of a team is one of my fondest memories of childhood. I want him to experience that. I want to give him the opportunity to learn to play and love a sport I grew up admiring from afar and never had a chance to play. I think (hope) he’ll appreciate my stubbornness when he’s a little older.

I hope Shakespeare doesn’t take offense, but maybe to answer my own question I’ll end with this: There is no right or wrong way to raise a child, but thinking makes it so.