I spent last weekend with a group of young boys who were intent on two things: winning their hockey tournament and getting a ride to the grocery store so they could buy baking soda and vinegar.
I don't know what makes a mother worry more: having a group of 12-year-olds with large sticks barreling into each other within the confines of a hockey arena or those same boys creating their own brand of science experiment in a snowy parking lot.
Both activities might be cause for alarm; but, if done right, they are chock-full of opportunity. What mom wants to deny her child opportunities?
Hockey. It's rough. It's violent. The skates, helmet, and all those pads cost a lot of money. People can get hurt playing hockey. I've seen fighting, swearing, and even thrown punches - and that's just between the parents.
So, why would a mom (or dad) let their child play the sport?
There are the pat answers: teamwork, good sportsmanship, athleticism, health and wellness, but all those good reasons are beside the point.
Hockey gives parents an excuse to get out during the long cold winter. It lets us rent hotel rooms and spend our money and the weekend in a cold, icy location. It allows us to visit places that are a stone's throw from Canada. It teaches us the financial benefits of the early-bird restaurant specials in the various small towns where we are holed up for two-and-a-half days.
Most important, hockey - like any other sport - allows us to live vicariously through our kids; isn't that what it's all about, really?
All kidding aside (and you know I am kidding, right?) Hockey is an activity that brings families together to have fun. That's the part that really works for me. I am all about fun - as long as it doesn't include any broken bones.
Science experiments, however, are another story. I always thought science was a non-controversial topic. Every school I've ever visited sanctions science as a legitimate area of learning. It is part of an accepted curriculum. I figured no parent could object to science.
Shows you how naïve I am. The parents accompanying their children on this particular hockey weekend didn't like the idea of kids mixing substances together just to witness the combustible results.
Of course, it didn't help matters that my kid was one of the main culprits and was in charge of providing mixing instructions to the group. He has a variety of "recipes" compiled from school projects and the Discovery channel, which have led to extensive at-home science experiments. Combining baking soda and vinegar is just the beginning. We've dabbled in Mentos and Coke as well as other harsher concoctions that perhaps are best not to mention here.
I found out last weekend that one family's science experiment is another person's explosive. Parents were upset (and rightly so) that their kids were making bombs. I would have been, too, if I'd ever thought about it that way when we were conducting lots and lots of science experiments (that I guess might have technically been bombs) at home.
Science can be a double-edged sword. It has its benefits: knowledge, problem-solving, and dramatic chemical reactions. It can also be fraught with risk - as in a felony conviction for making bombs.
I think we'd all agree it's good to avoid felonies.
Still, at my house, our various science experiments have brought us together as a family to have fun. That's the part that works for me. I am all about having fun - as long as it doesn't include any jail time.
Hockey and science - to be or not to be? That is the (big) question, and one you'd better answer for yourself. At my house we like to live life on the wild side. We've been known to mix Mentos and Coke on a regular Tuesday afternoon just minutes before leaving for hockey practice. I wouldn't recommend that sort of dangerous lifestyle to anyone. But for us, it works.