To my favorite skater at the start of your final season,
This weekend will be your very last, first game. And what will follow will be a series of lasts. You will experience your last trip to that extra cold rink you’ve complained about for years. And this time, that frigid air will feel a bit different. It will be your last trip to that filthy locker room you can’t stand, and there’s a good chance that it will seem a bit less bothersome.
And eventually, you will experience your last ride to a game—with me, your number one fan. There will be a lot of lasts. But that trip is something I am not looking forward to.
One of the most significant challenges your last season will pose for me will be watching you grow differently this year. It won’t be about seeing you improve your game. It will be about watching you strengthen your character. This year, you will learn to appreciate what this game really has to offer–life lessons beyond the ice.
I will get to watch you grow into a man. The man I raised, and the man that this game has shaped. And in a few short months, I will watch you walk out of the locker room, and out of the rink for the last time. We will ride home together, and I bet our conversation will be like no other we’ve ever had. And, that scares me to death.
I’ve had my fair share of lasts in my life. I’ve had my last day of high school, my last day of college, my last happy hour with my sorority sisters, my last day single, my last day without any children. But, I don’t think any will be as hard as the last time I see you play this game. I think it’s because this game has grown me with you.
Before you, I didn’t know how to be an ordinary mom, let alone a hockey mom—the pinnacle of all types of moms. We’ve experienced this ride together. And, I have to say, I want this last leg to be the best ever. We can do it. We are a great team.
There’s just one thing. I need you to promise me that you will cherish every last that comes your way this season. Find a little spot in your brain, and tuck it in there.
It’s so cliché to say that time goes too fast or, that we shouldn’t wish it away. It goes without saying. But, the sad reality is, the actual end of an era is the only thing that can make you realize why you should cherish all the little things. So, the last has to happen for you to fully appreciate what led up to it.
I know given a chance to bring you up through the different leagues again, I’d do a lot of things differently. I’d tweak a few things, and I’d be a bit more selfish stealing moments with you.
When you were a second year Pee Wee, a dad said something to me, and his words have been haunting all week because I can’t stop thinking about this being your last year playing hockey.
Some of the kids on that Pee Wee team would come out to get their skates tied by their parents. It drove dad nuts! He would say, “These boys are old enough to tie their skates.”
And, he made you learn and do it yourself. It was a lesson in independence–one we both thought you needed at age 11.
One day, one of the parents heard dad talking about how Pee Wees needed to be able to tie their own skates. This man said something to him. And, I never really got it until now.
He told dad, “It’s not about me tying his skates. It’s about those two minutes I get alone with him before a game. There will come a time when he won’t come looking for me. He has his whole life to be independent. And, I’ll teach him to be that way. But right now, I want to be with him when he’s radiating the passion that comes with doing something he loves. So, it’s not about the skates. It’s about my two minutes. My two minutes to see him glowing.”
For some reason, I can’t stop thinking about how many extra two minutes I could have had with you before you played. Could I have said the right thing to make you score another goal or earn another assist? Could I have boosted your confidence just a bit more? Could I have calmed the butterflies that prevented a turnover? Or, could I have merely been there because you needed me to be? I want so badly to go back and claim all of my lost two minutes.
Raising a hockey player is a tough job. It’s one that requires early mornings, long drives, late nights, busy schedules, days off work, and a whole lot more. And, through the years, I’ve reached my wits end quite a few times with all the juggling.
But, I always pushed through. And, oddly enough, I learned quite a bit about myself. It wasn’t until I had to come to terms with the fact that hockey momming my first skater is ending this year that I had an epiphany. Hockey wasn’t just teaching you important life lessons. It was teaching me important lessons as well.
Given the time back, I’d care a lot less about what level team you made and more about the friends you made on the team while playing. As you start your last season on the ice, do you remember what squirt team you were on? I bet you remember some friends you made—some of whom are starting their last season with you this weekend.
The most important lesson this game has taught me is how to love something that my child loves as much as he loves it. We’ve shared 13 years of road trips, late night practices, long car rides, icy roads, awesome talks, car karaoke, and talks about how to overcome frustration. This game helped us secure a strong relationship–a healthy, mother-son relationship. I credit hockey for a lot of the times you felt you could turn to me. That, my child, is why every mom given a chance to become part of this culture loves the game.
It’s not what happens on the ice. It’s the opportunities we get to be with our kids in such a wide variety of circumstances that make us a passionate breed of cowbell ringing crazy ladies. Your love of this game has ignited the mom passion in me. I am and have always been your biggest fan.
So this season, if I scream a little louder. Or, if I lose it on the refs a little more than usual, just know that I am doing so because I know that it might be my last chance to be your biggest fan.
I have one hope for this last season. When we walk out of the rink together for the last time, and we begin that last ride home, I hope you know your biggest fan is going to be by your side for whatever comes next.
Do you have any advice/tips for dealing with a kid graduating the game? Please leave them in the comments.