There is no crying in hockey

We hit a crossroads two weeks ago at hockey. It was painful and dramatic and slightly embarassing for Steve. As is typical of most working parents with young children, our Saturday mornings are no longer lazy and pajama filled. We get more done by noon than most people and then we flop in sort of a stunned overwhelmed heap by 2pm. I had Connor at soccer (9:30), so Steve had Caroline at hockey (10:00). As I raced out of the building to head to hockey to see that last few moments of ice time, I got a frantic call from Steve and a tearful hockey player was whining in the background. It was only 10:35 and she was crying to get off the ice.

The dilemma.

All week long a little girl with curls tells us that Connor might like taking shots on his goal in the playroom, but SHE is a real hockey player. She practices her "hockey face" and tells us she is excited about playing and how many days until she gets to go again??? Saturday rolls in and that excitement turns into anxiety and even as I am racing to soccer with Connor, I can see that Steve has his work ahead of him to get her revved up, confident and dressed in $150 worth of equipment. He reports that she is excited until the very last moment when she is about to step on the ice, but she does great once she is out there. She skates well for a beginner, back and forth, shuffle gliding with her arms to the side. 10:35, WHAM! Complete and total breakdown, tears, begging to get off the ice. So what is a parent to do?

After this particular breakdown, which resulted in an early departure and a forgotten pink stick, we weren't sure what to do next? It's a fine line between forcing and encouraging at this age.

I talked with her about it later and the comment that stuck with me was "I just don't know what else to do." This I could work with. she was bored. A girl can only skate back and forth for so long before she is done and a four year old girl can only do it for about 30 minutes apparently before her dam of tolerance breaks and a flood of tears follows. We talked about it, that if she wanted to play we want to support her, but if it isn't fun, she should tell us. We reinforced this was her decision and no one would be mad if she changed her mind. We let her know that the expectation is for her to skate as long as she can each week and that if there were any future explosive cry fests she would be done for good. Tell us you want to come off, talk to us, basically we don't want anymore scenes that makes us and every other parent there uncomfortable. We considered talking to the organizer about moving her up a level, but Steve was hesitant about being "that Dad." We decided to watch the older group this past Saturday and see if she could handle it (we are not sure she is ready, but maybe if she chooses to do the next session she could start there?)

Last week there was no soccer so Connor and I were able to go watch and cheerlead. She got right out there, she skated great, she came over to bang on the glass and say hi to Connor. I watched her fall intentionally in front of instructors for attention, and get up and skate away as soon as she got their eye (smartie). She passed the 35 minute mark, 40 minutes, and at 45 she came off. The only tears were because she had lost sight of Steve in the crowd. This was a major win. We noticed other parents having the same discussion with their kids, even the amazing 3 year-old phenom nicknamed "hot dog" who could skate circles around the 6 year-olds. This week she and another girl got their sticks for the first time and she had a chance to play with a puck, but she chose not to.

I'm still not sure she is ready to sign on for session 2 in January, but we are incredibly proud of her for sticking with it, trying her best, and not losing her mind at minute 35. I think we weathered this ok. I never imagined things could be harder than trying to get Conner to Sleep for the love of god, but this is way harder. Steve and I had that awful discussion about how we can totally mess this up. You cannot help but think about the consequences of the way you handle things like this, the lessons it teaches, the not so nice message it might send. I'm proud of us for talking it through with her, reinforcing her power to make a decision and our support no matter which route she goes. Special kudos to Steve for not mentioning the hefty investment in equipment. I think he is counting on Connor to use it too. Our message was positive and supportive, with a dash of "you need to handle this like a big girl" thrown in for good measure. We may not have a hockey player on our hands, but this is teaching her important life skills we couldn't possibly teach her at home. So Caroline, when you read this in 10 or 20 years, I love you no matter what you do, how good you are at it, so long as yand try your best and are having fun, I will always be your biggest fan.


  1. Sounds like you guys handled it BEAUTIFULLY! And your statement "we may not have a hockey player on our hands" may not be true at all. Maybe you just don't have a 4 year old Hockey Player on your hands. If she ends up not sticking with it, she still may love it in a few years. This age is all about exposure to different things and building confidence. You never know!

  2. I think you did great. We just went through a very painful soccer season with Katherine which was similar to your experience. It was like pulling teeth to get her on the field and then once she was there she had a great time. Our big mantra with her was that "you have to finish the season, after that you don't have to play anymore if you don't want to". And while I think was painful for her at times I felt it was important to teach the lesson that when you start something, you finish it (it was hard not mention the $90+ that had been invested in soccer so kuddos to Steve too!). Right now she doesn't want to play soccer or do anything else (basketball, dance, etc.) and while I'm not going to push if the opportunity comes up to expose her to something (i.e. doesn't cost us) then I will.

  3. It sounds like a very typical parenting situation, and you handled it well. Anna's still in the early stages of experimenting with sports, but I'm sure we'll get here. At her 5 day (1 hour) hockey camp, she spent 3 days laying on the field. She loves ballet but insists she'd rather be doing tap. Hockey is intense! I'm impressed she's made it so far.