I'm trying to be a good hockey mom, but it seems I've got a lot to learn.
I had to learn early on after becoming a single mom how to tie skate laces and help my boys put on their equipment. I began by asking other veteran moms and dads in the change room, and everyone was more than willing to help. In talking to other parents and to my brothers, I sorted out where to send the boys for skating lessons and decided on a league for house league hockey.
I figured out where to go to buy them equipment. I even signed up for skating lessons with another mom so I could take my boys to public skating and skate with their class at school. I didn't want to have to beg friends and relatives to take my boys skating, so I figured I'd eliminate the excuses and learn to skate it myself.
But the boys are getting older and, as it turns out, I've still got a lot to learn about being a hockey mom. For instance, my parents took my oldest son, Ari, to his first game of the season a few weeks ago. I had Ari dressed and ready at 5:30 p.m. for a 7 p.m. game. By the time my parents picked him up, crawled through traffic and got to the game, Ari was so overheated and sick that they had to take him home.
With all my mistakes so fresh in my mind, I wanted to hang my head and cry.
Recently, I bumped into a friend who let me know that she saw Ari at an arena the other day and noticed that Ari's hockey socks were bunched around his ankles like slouch socks. "He needs to velcro them so they stay up, or you can tape them."
"Thank you," I mumbled. I appreciated the feedback, but was embarrassed nonetheless.
Last week, I realized another issue I'd have to tackle. As we watched Ari during a game, one sock again bunched around his ankle, we couldn't understand why he was falling down and rolling around on the ice like a bowling ball.
"I think his skates need to be sharpened," my mom told me. "I used to take your brothers' skates to be sharpened all the time -- like once a week."
"Once a week?" I balked. "I think I take them once a season!"
Sure enough, his blades were so dull that standing upright on them was impossible. Today, I skated with Ari's class and he didn't fall a single time. I also bought a new pair of hockey pants with Velcro that isn't so worn out. He has yet to test them out.
With all my mistakes so fresh in my mind, I wanted to hang my head and cry. Why is it that every other hockey mom seems to know these things? Why do I always feel like the only one who has difficulty making it to games that take place in some far-off arena in the middle of rush hour? Why is my kid the only one wearing slouch socks? Why didn't I realize blades need to be sharpened frequently, or that kids get overheated if you dress them too far in advance of their game?
Maybe there's hope for my future as a hockey mom.
Well, I didn't cry for myself or for how little hockey knowledge I currently have. Instead, I'd rather use these experiences as valuable life lessons. I won't make the same mistake twice. I won't make them with my younger son, because now I know better. And I won't hesitate to help other newbie hockey moms avoid my mistakes.
When I helped out at Ari's class skate today, I was asked by other moms and kids to help tie and untie hockey laces. I was able to clip on helmet straps. I was even able to skate over to one girl who had fallen to see if she was OK.
Maybe I'm not doing so badly after all. Maybe there's hope for my future as a hockey mom. I've improved markedly over the years, and that is an accomplishment in itself. Maybe this year I'll even build a rink in my back yard. Maybe.
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook
Also on HuffPost:
If you think your wee one is too young to smell, think again. I have a husband who plays hockey, a son who plays hockey, another son who speed skates and I speed skate. We all work up a sweat and we all smell -- even the little ones (sorry, it's true). The smell from sweaty jerseys, jocks and skates then gets transferred to everything else in the hockey bag. Also make sure the kids are responsible for their own bags -- if they're old enough to play hockey, they're old enough to carry their bags.
This is a two-fold tip (1) it teaches your child independence and (2) it takes the onus off you. Even if you have a little one who is just starting hockey, you can start the process of teaching him how to put on his own equipment by making a game of it. Start by having him choose each piece of equipment he is to put on next. Then as he gets older, have him find the piece of equipment and put it on himself (correcting any mistakes along the way -- the equipment needs to be worn properly to help keep him safe).
This brings to me to hockey laces. After years of tightening and re-tightening skate laces, I discovered laces coated in wax. Regular laces can be difficult to get tight and can loosen up as your little one is on the ice. Waxed laces are designed to stay tight because the friction of the wax keeps them in place. I can't even express to you how much waxed laces have helped me.
My first year being a hockey mom I showed up at the wrong arena for a practice -- twice. Create a calendar to keep track of when and where your child should be to avoid missing any games or practices.
Even if you're bundled up it's always great to have a few blankets. If you don't use them for warmth they make a cozy cushion. Arena seats can be very hard.
Little ones can get bored watching hockey which leads to complaining and/or them wanting to take off and run around. Pack a bag filled with simple activities like colouring books and crayons, books, small toys, and handheld electronics (if you have them).
Disappointment is a part of playing a sport, they're not going to win every game. Take the time to teach your children how to win and lose like a winner. This includes congratulating the other team if they won, supporting their teammates when they lose, and no trash talking. Excitement at winning the big game is allowed.