By: Jill Pertler
I've never been much of a hockey fan. For someone living in the northern portion of the country where winter lasts for at least half the year, this is a bold confession - not usually shouted from rooftops, but whispered discreetly on dark street corners.
I'm not a winter person. The cold months of December and January are enough to get my long undies in a bunch. The only thing worse is knowing that I've still got February to cross - and everyone knows February is the longest month.
It's only logical, then, that sitting in a cold, ice-filled arena didn't make my top 10 to-do list.
But, life has its way of throwing us a flying puck now and again. I have four kids. Two already play hockey and a third is most likely on the horizon. Can you say icing?
As any parent will attest, once you have children, your life is no longer your own. You share it with your kids. This is why you became a parent. If your kids want to explore a certain hobby or sport, and it is in your means and interest to help them, you do so. Mine wanted to play hockey. Ambivalent or not, I was along for the ride.
During my son's first year of play, I had to help him suit up a couple of times. I couldn't believe the complexity of the garb. There were pads and socks and protectors all held together with white tape. There were funny looking pants called "breezers." The helmet, in and of itself, was a site to behold. I believe there were three or four snaps, a chin guard, and a mouth guard attached with plastic. When my son was complete in his attire he looked like a round, padded, helmeted alien.
What's amazing to me, is that we suit our little ones up like this, put sharp steel blades on their feet, give them a long stick, and say, "Go for it!" And they do. That's the amazing part. They do.
These little people, who can hardly stand up on skates at the beginning of the season, are able to skate fluidly just a few months later. They learn the coordination of handling the stick and puck at the same time. They learn to skate as fast backward as they can forward. They learn to pass and dig and stay onside. They learn to rely not only on themselves, but their teammates and coach as well.
Probably just as important as anything else, they learn to enjoy our long, cold winter. And they help their moms do the same.
A few years ago, I entered the world of hockey as a novice. I've learned a lot since then, and am proud to say that I no longer consider myself a total rookie. I know my fair share about a world where Zamboni is king. I've learned to appreciate a perfect pass and a well-executed play. I've learned about breakaways, blue lines, high sticking, the five hole, icing, hat tricks, going top shelf and weekend jamborees.
I've learned the importance of thick socks and good boots. I've learned that those hand-warmer things really do work. I've learned that hot cocoa tastes better when you're cold.
I've also learned that when my kids enjoy something thoroughly and entirely, it's hard for me not to feel the same way. I started out as an ambivalent parent, but that's changed. I have become a fan. I may not shout it from the rooftop, but I have been known to join the hockey moms in a team cheer. It's fun. And besides, the clapping and yelling helps keep the blood circulating to my extremities.
Jill Pertler is a syndicated columnist and award-winning freelance writer. She appreciates your comments and can be reached at <
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