Not every day of hockey is a good one. And there will come a time when you have to get your reluctant hockey player on the ice. Maybe several times. I was reminded of this fact on the weekend. It was inevitable. We have been running at full steam for 6 weeks with the last three being particularly busy. And Saturday, Boy #2 hit the wall.
As a toddler, he would reach a people-saturation point and we would find him off by himself playing with his toys quietly. For the most part he has grown out of this, but we do try to make sure he gets some down time to recharge the introvert batteries. This did not happen on Saturday and things got ugly.
You see, Boy #1 had a tournament game across the city. So I took Boy #2 with me to Boy #3’s Christmas hockey party. Which was wonderful and fun for them. The problem came after the party. Because Boy #2 had a hockey game immediately following. And he was so burnt out on people and noise that he shut down. He refused to get on the ice and play in the game. So he sat on the bench. For an hour.
In times like these, it’s best to keep your sense of humour about you. So I present:
A: Agree that their life is dreadful
B: Bribe them with whatever comes after the hockey rink. Even if it’s just going home. For some reason this works.
C: Cheer them on. Like a lot. For every little thing “Yay!! We got to the rink” “Woo hoo! You put your elbow pads on.” Every thing.
D: Drag them through the dressing process and onto the ice. In most cases they are still little enough that you can pull this off. But you will be tired and sweaty afterwards. Just call it a workout.
E: Evade direct answers that you know will cause Total. Complete. Meltdown.
F: Find the fun. Remind them of what they enjoy about this sport.
G: Get help. Pull in their coaches or friends to distract them from the mood and get them on the ice.
H: Hide. Sometimes mine feed off me, so my presence just makes it worse. Once they are dressed, let the coach know what you’re doing and why. And then go and hide.
I: Ignore the tear stained face staring at you from the ice. Now this wouldn’t have worked for me on Saturday and it really depends on your kid, but when Boy #3 was having his boycott of hockey last year, this was one of the techniques that seemed to work. Even though it is definitely not my favorite.
J: Joke. Tease them. Be silly. Make them laugh. More often than not, that breaks them out of the rut they’ve dug into and you both can move on.
K: Keep putting them on the ice. Don’t give up because 9 times out of 10, it’s temporary. If they truly dislike the sport and it isn’t for them, try to encourage them to finish out the season. Their team needs them and it’s a really good lesson in honouring your commitments. Not an easy thing to teach.
L: Listen to why they don’t want to go on the ice. More often than not, it has little to do with playing hockey. This was my mistake on Saturday with Boy #2. If I had heard his actual reason for not wanting to play and addressed it, he probably would have skated. But I was just as burnt out as him and focussed on getting through the game and getting home. I am not a perfect parent. Shocker, I know.
M: Make it easy on them. Dress them. Help them with the gear. I don’t know about you but when I’m overtired, I want nothing to do with anything. Kids are the same but they don’t have as much say in their schedule. So if they normally schlep their own gear and get dressed themselves, maybe stepping in to help will get them over this bump in the road.
N: Negotiate. You know how Ronald Reagan once said “We do not negotiate with terrorists”?, Yeah, this is hockey, we negotiate with the little people. If they are old enough. So come to an agreement on what needs to happen. They need to get dressed and sit with their team for the game, but they don’t have to play. That would have been a good one on Saturday. The coaches thought of that one for Boy #2.
O: Offer them options. “Do you want to put your skates on first, or your elbow guards?” “Do you want hot chocolate after practice or a candy?”. Basically, distract them from the current situation and have them looking forward to after practice.
P: Plead your case. Once they get old enough to reason, there is nothing wrong with pleading with them to get on the ice.
Q: Question them. Find out why they are refusing to get on the ice.
R: Respond accordingly. Further to the above, once you know why, respond to their complaints. In the past, Boy #3 has often told me “Because”. I can’t work with “Because” so I’m going to say that this one only works on those that are a little older and a lot less stubborn.
S: Set a limit. Tell them that they only have to do half the practice or game. Let the coach know you’re doing this. And honestly, this is kind of my last resort, because at least two of my children will consistently call my bluff. But more often than not, once they are on the ice, they are happy to be there. It’s a gamble.
T: Take a few deep breaths. This is a marathon, fellow hockey parents. You have to remember to breathe.
U: Understand that this is not just your kid. Trust me, we’ve all been here. Some more often than others. But almost every kid will hit a wall of exhaustion and dig in their heels. There are the few that can’t get enough of the ice, who seem to live and breathe hockey. But most kids are just kids and will get tired of it at some point during the season.
V: Vent. Once they are on the ice, vent out your feelings. Try to find a way to laugh about it. Commiserate with the other hockey parents. Marathon, remember?
W: Watch them. The first five or ten minutes will tell you how this is going to go. So watch. If they are getting in to the practice, you can relax and catch your breath. If they are standing at the boards crying at you….well you have decisions to make. Stay or go.
X: Honestly, I don’t know what this letter exists other than to challenge people who make ABC lists. Can we pretend that I found something witty for X and move on?
Y: Yield. When all else fails, sometimes you just yield to the day and call it quits early. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Z: Zzzzzzzz as in go home and get some sleep. You’ve survived another one, you deserve a nap.
See you at the rink,