Hockey Mom Rebecca Lynch (a pseudonym used to protect her family’s anonymity) has a few confessions.
“I love to watch you play.” “The drive isn’t all that bad.” “I don’t mind getting up for this.” Lie. Lie. Lie.
Watching my daughter dive for a loose puck in front of the net while there are sticks and blades flying around scares me. Driving anywhere around New York City on a Friday at rush hour is a traffic engineer’s idea of a cruel joke. And there isn’t enough coffee in the United States to keep me from second guessing my life choices when my alarm goes off at 4:30 in the morning.
Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love the fact that my daughter plays this crazy game. I love that she has decided that she is tough enough, mentally and physically, to be a goaltender. And there is a nugget of truth in every one of those statements.
Watching my daughter play hockey is frightening. Yes, I know, the goalie is very well padded. But I also remember that Mike Richter was forced to retire because of concussions. For years, I’ve watched her games by pacing the rink rafters and occasionally looking between my fingers at the ice. It’s much easier for me to “watch” a game by filming it, so I volunteered to be the team’s videographer. When I’m looking at my camera, I don’t flinch when she blocks a shot with her head or cringe when she gets beat on a stick-side wraparound. I’m just following the play on the ice. The real truth is that I love the smile on her face as she leads her team onto the ice. I love how relaxed and “in her element” she is while she plays. I love how confident she is when she’s directing traffic from her crease. Most of all, I love seeing how much fun she has when she is with her teammates.
We live in New York City. My daughter plays for a team in the suburbs (long story, but she’s happy with that program and I don’t like to mess with what works). That means we spend a lot of time in the car and a lot of that time is spent sitting in traffic. There is nothing pleasant about the traffic. Ever. On a Friday evening during rush hour, it’s maddening. But the time we spend in the car together has forged a relationship between us that might not otherwise exist. She sees me as an absolutely flawed human being — frustrated when I make a bad decision, short-tempered and more than a little profane. She laughs at me when I call the driver who just cut me off a “jackass” just loud enough for her alone to hear. Sitting in traffic, I can get her to tell me about her new high school or what was so funny about the meme one of her teammates just sent her. I’m not looking at her and she knows my attention is split between the conversation and driving the car, so I think she feels a little freer to say whatever is on her mind. Whatever the reason, it’s important to me that we have that kind of time together, even if my blood pressure creeps up as my gas gauge creeps down.
I hate getting up at 4:30 in the morning. I seriously contemplate just rolling over and going back to sleep. I grumble about how unfair it is. I whine about how long it takes for coffee to brew. But I get up because she has asked me to. She wants to get better and she’s willing to put in the work. She was invited to the NYSAHA Girls Development Camp two summers ago. She didn’t get an invite to any of the USA Hockey development camps she was eligible for this past summer. She wants to improve and try to make it back on track this year. I don’t mind giving her the support she is asking for. So three or four times a month, she goes to work with her goalie coach for an hour before school. She’s learning what it means to set a goal and work towards it. I have no idea what the result will be. But I am so proud of her for doing the work, even while I’m watching the sun rise from the roof of an ice rink in Queens and whining about wanting more coffee.
My darling, beloved daughter — none of this is news to you. What I have not said to you outright (I hate getting up in the morning) has been heavily implied (I only tolerate the drives because I get to spend the time with you). Your father and I love you. We want you to be happy, healthy and safe. We want you to grow up to be a productive member of society, in a manner that is satisfying to you as a person. As long as playing hockey fits those goals, we will support your choice to play. . . regardless of how many sleepless nights it causes me.