‘It really is a humour story about motherhood’

astraManotick hockey mom’s trials and tribulations revealed in new book

Manotick’s Astra Groskaufmanis once envisioned raising a family that would spend winter weekends on the ski hill. But as John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Instead, Groskaufmanis ended up with two sons and a daughter who are all hockey players — and goaltenders, to boot. She details the perils and joys of being a hockey mom in her recent self-published book, Offside by a Mile. A portion of proceeds from sales goes toward The Big Play, a program that helps disadvantaged kids get involved in organized hockey.

Her book covers ground most hockey parents can relate to — 6 a.m. practices, expenses, relations with other parents, taking volunteer roles with the team, fundraising, canteen food, the lack of a life unrelated to hockey, etc.

Groskaufmanis details how the dream of being a ski family — as opposed to a hockey family — began to crumble when her firstborn Connor started school at the age of four and caught the hockey bug from talking to other kids.

“We raised the white flag to the culture of hockey, and so began a 14-year odyssey that continues to this day,” Groskaufmanis writes.

Groskaufmanis is a human resources professional whose writing experience includes a short story called The Angels of Hockey, articles for YummyMummyClub. ca and her own blog, The Dust Bunny Chronicles.

She has an ability to highlight the humour in real life events. In Offside by a Mile, she writes about using sex as a bargaining chip to get her husband Peter to take the kids to early-morning practices.

On a related note, she details what it’s like to forget your coffee on the kitchen counter before heading out to a 6 a.m. hockey session: “Normally this would evoke a fleeting moment of disappointment, but at 5:30 on a midwinter Saturday morning, the realization plunges you into despair, and you start to whimper.”

She brings a unique perspective that might be more particular to hockey moms than hockey dads when she writes about wardrobe choices for hockey events and dealings with other parents.

“[Peter] doesn’t get antsy in November when he encounters another parent whom we don’t know at one of our kids’ games, but I do.

“Me: ‘Who is that woman? I feel like I should know her. She smiled at us.’

“Without taking his eyes off the play on the ice, Peter replies indifferently, ‘Dunno.’ ”

In an interview, Groskaufmanis says there is a “big difference” between the experience of being a hockey mom and that of being a hockey dad.

“Dads get way more into the actual game, whereas hockey moms get into more of the parenting,” she says.

“I really talk more about issues like getting kids to the arena, getting kids to eat properly, getting kids to sleep properly, all this sort of funny stuff with laundry and household mishaps and the fundraising aspect of hockey.”

She says the book, at its essence, is not about hockey, but the experience of being a parent within a particular set of circumstances.

  “You’re not going to learn anything about hockey,” Groskaufmanis says. “It really is a humour story about motherhood as told through the eyes of a mom mothering three hockey players, and reluctantly at that.”

The book explains, in comedic fashion, what she’s learned about parenting from the hockey lifestyle. For example, she writes about her daughter Emily — the youngest of her three children — becoming a “rink rat” while tagging along with her mom to the games and practices of her brothers, Connor and Taylor.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I beg to differ — it takes an arena,” she writes. “I know there are countless strangers who’ve kissed Emily’s boo-boos, bought her a hot chocolate as a result of her pleading looks, and lifted her up to sink level to let her wash her hands by herself.”

Asked about the most important advice she can give to other hockey parents, Groskaufmanis — who’s been a team manager on several occasions and is a trainer with her daughter’s team this season — says: “I think they have to get involved … If you get involved with the team, you understand how much time the coach puts in, and the assistant coaches and managers and trainers, and people who organize tournaments and accommodations for tournaments and restaurants for tournaments.”

She adds another bit of wisdom: “Get yourself a really, really good coffee mug.”

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