Columnist James Gordon supports, encourages his sons as they pursue their passions on the iceAs the weather heats up and people hit the sunny outdoors after an excruciatingly long and cold spring, I know where I’ll be: freezing my butt off.
No, thankfully the weatherman isn’t calling for a return to subzero temperatures any time soon, but I’ll have my coat and mitts out once again as what used to be my sons’ winter activity – hockey – drags into the spring and summer.
And when things cool off again in the fall? Back to the winter hockey season!
How much is too much? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately.
We weren’t in a rush to cede all of our winter weekends to the rink, and as such didn’t start our eldest son in hockey until two years later than most of the kids who play competitive nowadays. But he loved it so much and has worked so hard that he’s managed to get himself to a higher level in the game, which means a much bigger time and financial commitment.
I know a lot of parents would be aghast that we now spend all year in arenas – especially cottage season! – vouching instead for letting “kids be kids” and spend more of their time unstructured and unscheduled (especially when school is out).
But here’s the thing: both my sons say they know what they want to be when they grow up, and they are insistent that they will make it one day. They both want to be goaltenders in the National Hockey League.
That is, of course, the longest of longshots. As a former sports journalist, I’m more than familiar with how difficult it is to make a go of it in professional hockey, let alone at the highest level in the world. I have no illusions.
But I also remember what it was like being a kid and having statistics recited to me when I said I had the same goal. “The odds are so low – almost impossible – you should focus on something else.”
Setting aside the fact that I did “make it to the NHL” as a hockey writer, if only in a peripheral capacity, I still remember well the feeling of having adults telling me my dream was wrong.
Maybe my boys will outgrow that particular dream over the next few years, or continue to pursue it and learn a lot about dealing with success and failure and working as a part of a team before moving on to a career as a mathematician or lawyer or artist or whatever.
But I’ll be there to support them – even if I’d rather be at the pool – because I’ve come around to the idea that there’s no “right” answer to the question of how much is too much.
Every kid is different, and for us, we’ve always let our boys take the lead with their interests and activities. We support them going as far as they can with them, and if they get bored with hockey and get into something else, we’ll let them explore that too.
At the end of the day, I’m happy they’ve found something they’re passionate about, something that gives them confidence and common ground with kids at school.
Plus, I want them to know that it’s OK to dream big.
So if that means shivering in a rink for a few hours on the weekend instead of using that time to lounge by the pool or on the patio because that’s where my kids want to be, that’s OK with me. The pools and patios will still be there when the boys get their gear off and step back into the sun.