My William plays hockey. He's 10 now, and started playing a couple of years ago. Big Daddy signed him up, and offered to be the one to drive him to and fro to practices and games, and I think he was an assistant coach a time or two.
William loves sports. He is the kid who begs me to go out in the backyard to play catch "just til it's dark out", he's the one who can spend two hours out on the driveway with a hockey stick and a pile of rocks. This past spring and summer, during baseball season, his first words to me every single morning were "Do I have a game tonight???". He slept in his baseball uniform the night of his first playoff game (jock strap and all) and damn if they didn't end up city champions.
So when Big Daddy talked about getting him into hockey, I was all for it. Our other three were never the ones who begged to play a sport, if I signed them up, they'd do it. But there was never that fire, that passion to play. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I'll add. God knows not everyone in this world is cut out to be a jock. I'm from the school of parenting that believes no child should be forced into doing something (homework and bathing aside). I know, I know, there are pro athletes who wouldn't be the mega-billionaires they are today if ma and pa hadn't "made" them practice every day. But I want my kids to do what they love. I want them to find what they're good at, without a red-faced stage mom breathing down their necks.
And out of my four sweet angels, William happens to be the one who loves sports.
So...the whole hockey thing has been Big Daddy's deal with William. I asked him, the first few seasons, to be put on the parent call list, the email tree, etc., but never really got a response. So I stepped back and let him have this one. I went to a few games here and there, but felt like an outsider. I didn't know any of the parents. The last game I went to, one of the moms looked at me and said, "I didn't know he had a mom!". Ouch.
This time around, I want to be involved. I told William that going forward, if his practices and games fall on "mom nights", I will be the one taking him. I was a hockey cheerleader, for Christ's sake. I can lace skates. I haven't made this assertion to Big Daddy yet (should I bother with the email now, sir, or can I assume you see this?) but I am putting my Dansko-clad foot down.
I'm going to be a hockey mom.
Which brings us to this post. William is currently enrolled in some sort of summer/fall league, which gets kids together to sharpen their skates and skills before the official hockey season begins. He's missed the first several games because, according to him, Big Daddy couldn't afford new skates for my boy. But thankfully, the cash was scraped up this past weekend and William came home with a slightly used, "new to him" pair of skates. (and I will say this: I am not mocking the slightly used angle one bit. I am the thrift store QUEEN.). William was worried that these skates were too big, but he said he'd make them work. I love this kid, have I mentioned that??
Anyhoo. Yesterday was the day that William was finally able to play in a game. Big Daddy and I haven't said boo to each other in weeks, but given the fact that William came home the night before with the hockey gear bag and his stick, I figured that it was finally my turn to be the hockey parent.
Yesterday was a busy day. The two junior high kids, Molly and Henry, had conferences and (gasp) school pictures. So we spent a good chunk of the day at the junior high, meeting new homeroom teachers, smiling pretty for the camera, finding lockers, buying gym shirts, etc. All that fun stuff. I may not have been an involved hockey mom over the past few years, but I can say, with some pride, that I have been the "conference mom", the "back to school mom", the "hey we need a check for directories/yearbooks/field trips mom" for what feels like a millenium. And yesterday was just another day of being the checkbook wielding, hand-shaking, locker-finding mom I am.
William's game was at 5:45, at a private school's ice arena just a city and a half away. I knew that it would be rush hour, and that we would be semi-pressed for time. So I inquired to a few knowledgeable friends about shortcuts. Cheats. Anything that would spare me from agonizing traffic jams that would keep me from getting my little Wayne Gretzky out onto the ice.
One friend emailed me his surefire shortcut. He went to this private school, and this was the route that he took more mornings than he could remember. So I looked at the email, took a Sharpie, and copied down his very precise directions.
Only...have I mentioned that I have a touch of dyslexia? Just a touch. I transpose a few things hither and yon. Here and there. A left and right sometimes. A north and a south.
You see where I'm going? I got my little hockey dude ready, got his bag in the truck, got his water bottle, got my dyslexic directions. And headed out.
We were watching the clock on my dashboard. It kept moving forward, even though we seemed to be stuck on sticky fly paper amidst a sea of vehicles. William started to worry out loud: "Jeeze. We only have 12 minutes, Mom. Can you tie my skates in 12 minutes?" He was worried about his new skates. He'd never given them a test drive, and he was giving himself an ulcer wondering if they'd disappoint him (that's my boy). We crept along, exiting one molasses-slow highway for an even slower city street. Familiar landmarks showed up, then appeared in the rear-view. My inner GPS told me that we were so not headed in the right direction, but my damned-if-I'm-wrong directions told me to keep heading east.
Finally, the clock in my truck said 6:15. We were stuck in yet another traffic jam, waiting at one of those God-forsaken lights that need a left-turn lane more than Lindsay Lohan needs a mom. William and I had been taking turns wearing the blame hat. I was cursing myself, loudly and often, for once again falling into the dizzy-I-can't-follow-directions role, and William was busy reassuring himself and his mom that it was ok if we didn't make this game. He kept bringing up the fact that Big Daddy had skipped the first three games, that his skates were really big and who knew if he could skate in them anyway, and by the way...Big Daddy had told him "I don't give a crap" if he missed this particular Wednesday night game.
So there we sat in rush hour deadlock. I was imagining Big Daddy calling me retarded (one of his charming nicknames for me), hissing about my ineptitude and my utter stupidity when it comes to getting from A to B. I was failing. This was my chance to show that YES. Yes, I could be the hockey mom. I could get my kid to the rink, and I could lace up his freaking skates and I could sit there in the stands and yell out "YEAH" and "GO BLUE". And I was blowing this chance.
And William, bless his 10 year old heart, William was letting me know that it was ok. "These skates are too big, mom. There's no way they'll work." And "It's no big deal. We saw the coach at the skate store and he said lots of people don't show up." At one point he asked me, "Are you mad at me?". I felt horrible. I reassured him that none of this insane kooky anger was directed at him. Quite the opposite. "I'm mad at myself, dudie." I told him. "I wanted to be the perfect mom today and I failed."
William looked at me for a second. Put one of his long, lanky legs up on the dashboard and folded his arms behind his head.
"You are my perfect mom." he said.
I looked at the clock, looked at where we were. Looked at this beautiful, accepting, loving kid in the seat next to me.
And I headed home.