Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pre-schoolers and Sports

WHM has been playing hockey (in a very loose sense) and participating in a learn-to-skate program. He begged and pleaded for this. Since moving to Maine, he hasn't had anything that is his activity -- there is no Kindermusik here and lacrosse was a failure last spring, when he was so young for the group.  CAM does baton and until this year she danced (and would still be dancing but for scheduling issues).  Since we know that he would be behind if we didn't say yes to hockey sooner than later, we gave it a go.

It has been a struggle.

We're not saying we want or expect him to be the next Cam Neely. But we didn't want to set him up to be frustrated because he was so far behind his peers, either.  Kids here get on skates as soon as they can walk, and if you've got any inclination to play hockey but haven't been on the ice before kindergarten, you are behind in skills.  It's that simple.  Not that you can't catch up, but you're already behind.  At 5.

(For reference, CAM has a friend in first grade who presently does three different LTS (learn-to-skate/hockey) programs to catch up. And this is not a case of overzealous parents living vicariously and shamefully through their kid; these are parents who -- quite the opposite -- regret that they have to do this so he isn't in tears after every practice for being the worst one there.)

Well, WHM puts on his gear every day after school.  He "skates" around the house in his socks or IronMan or Lightning McQueen slippers.  His stick goes up and down the hallway so much that we've thought of wrapping it in a sock so he doesn't scratch up the walls and floor. He is so hockey crazy you'd think he's the son of an NHL'er.

And to encourage his enthusiasm and let him do something he wants to pursue, now we head to his skate program on Saturday mornings.

We originally had two programs back-to-back on Saturday mornings at cross-town rinks, but the first program didn't impress Mick. And it was early. Be-on-the-ice-by-7 early. So it was easy to say that between the program being a bit disorganized and the early ice time being, well ... not super convenient ... we stayed with just the one program. My point is, we're not exactly putting WHM through the ringer with too much going on. He's doing one program, at a decent hour.

His skate program is from 9:45-10:45 every Saturday.  It is incredibly well done, with two coaches and half a dozen high schoolers assisting. They are patient and knowledgeable and run clinics where they really give every kid individual attention.

The past few Saturdays, though, WHM hasn't made it the full hour.

Not because he's exhausted and his attention span is done.

Nope.  Because he's faking injuries.

From this ... 

.... to this.  In approximately 30 minutes.
Two weeks ago, he said he hurt his head.  One of the high schoolers who was helping that day skated over to me and said WHM had gotten tripped and was crying.  WHM said he hit his head and it hurt and he wouldn't get back on the ice no matter what I did or said.  That was about 40 minutes into the lesson, so I rolled with it.

But then the same thing happened this past weekend.  I wondered (to myself) if there was any influence from Mick's concussion. Maybe WHM was afraid that any bump would mean that he should be scared, and that was why we were dealing with "I hit my head" two weeks in a row?  I didn't want to lead the witness, so to speak, but I didn't want to just dismiss him if he was upset -- or hurt.  And the fact was, this was two weeks in a row that he was all-out sobbing.  He insisted his helmet hurt, and on closer inspection the pads weren't in there and I agreed -- hitting the back of your head on an unpadded helmet probably did hurt.  Not that I saw him hit his head or even really believed that he had. But he wouldn't get back on the ice no matter what I did, so we left.

Totally not the face of a kid who practically ran to the ice when we got to the rink.

This has been frustrating to me, because it's not as if WHM isn't excited on Fridays to talk all about hockey on Saturdays.  He gets up early and gets ready and is giddy about heading to the rink.  He calls it "my aweena" when we drive by on errands around town.

But back to Saturday.  Mick got home and we all agreed that maybe the helmet was just too snug.  So that very afternoon, he took WHM to get a new helmet.  In an unusual coincidence, WHM had a second practice on Sunday, and we wanted him to have whatever gear he needed.

Notsofastmyfriends.  Mick took WHM to the Sunday practice and this time, WHM said that his fingers hurt.  Twenty minutes on the ice, and he was done.  Mick brought him home even in his gear, he was so exasperated. (It didn't help that my in-laws came up this weekend especially to see WHM skate and that one of his aunts even came to the rink on Sunday -- and between the two sessions he didn't even last an hour.)

In the meantime, you may have seen this link this week.  (Well, maybe not, but it was on my personal Facebook newsfeed quite a few times. It seems to be making the rounds.)  Essentially, it's about how to be a proper sports parent.  There are six words you need to say to your child: Have fun. Play hard. I love you.  And when they come off the field/court/ice, you say again: Did you have fun? I'm proud of you. I love you.

This is a big struggle for Mick and for me.  We don't want to allow WHM to be a quitter, or to cry at ay trivial thing.  But we are trying to balance that against the fact that he is four years old.  Four.  He's supposed to be allowed to cry.  To be a child.  The last thing we want to do is to force him to do something that he has decided he doesn't want to do, and end up making him resent it or hate it*.  We want hockey -- or lacrosse, or whatever he decides on next -- to be fun.  For him to enjoy it.  At the same time, we want him to develop some stick-to-it-ness.  To toughen up a bit. To understand that it takes practice to get good at anything.

So, we're oh-for-three on WHM staying out on the ice for his entire session. And we genuinely don't know whether we're better to teach him that he needs to stick it out and tough it out if he falls, or if it's okay to say, "he's four, c'mon, let's head to Dunkin' and try again next time."

This whole parenting thing is hard enough.  The dynamics of trying to be good (sports) parents are making it even harder.  We know all kids are different -- even CAM is so incredibly different from WHM. But if you've been through this, we'd love your thoughts.


*Caveat: eating his dinner or cleaning his room or taking a bath are not in that category. We're talking "fun" stuff.

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