When Boy #1 started in hockey, he was in the last year of Initiation, and he was 6 years old. Half the time I still helped him dress for school in the morning. And as previously mentioned, I had a steep learning curve when it came to putting hockey equipment on a squirmy kid.
Oh how things have changed in the last four years. This past weekend, I got to the rink later than usual (it’s been known to happen) and I had my player dressed from tip to toe and on the ice in under 5 minutes.
Mom’s got skills, y’all. I know you’re jealous.
These days, however, Boy #1 has officially fired me from change room duties, with the exception of tying his skates. While my heart is a little lost at the thought of not being needed (I might have asked him if he was firing me…and he might have answered yes), my olfactory system is incredibly relieved to be free from the onslaught that is the pre-teen hockey dressing room.
But you have to start somewhere. As with everything, it’s all about the baby steps. Each year, as my boys enter Novice they are gifted with a new hockey bag for their gear. And that hockey bag has wheels.
Step 1 is getting them to carry their own gear in and out of arenas. Mama’s done her time, kiddo.
Inevitably their coaches set the goal of having the Novice kids get themselves dressed in all their hockey equipment by themselves by Christmas. I applaud their optimism, but I’m two for two on this. Neither Boy #1 or Boy #2 has met this deadline.
And I don’t push the matter, for a couple of reasons. The first being that I don’t always have 45 minutes to show up to the rink early so they have time to put their gear on. The second being it that it is protective gear and it is my job as their parent to make sure it is put on in a way that provides maximum protection.
Anxiety, people. It’s a beast.
That said, they will figure it out. Well, Boy #1 figured it out in his second year of Novice. And then, as discussed above, told me that I didn’t have to come into the change room this year, his first year of Atom. Seriously people, this left me feeling a little lost. What am I supposed to do while he’s in the change room? Just stand around? Who does that?
Apparently everyone. So here’s what we’ve done to help them learn.
1. In their Initiation years, we start asking them what piece of hockey equipment goes on next. They learn the order of assembly this way.
2. There are times when we’ve had to leave for a few minutes to take care of something else. When this happens, we instruct our player to get specific pieces of equipment on in our absence. Eventually they dress themselves entirely on their own initiative. You work up to it.
3. On days where all the equipment is too overwhelming to think about, I will hand each piece to my player and tell him to put them on. We get through it one piece at a time. And we do it together. Sometimes you just need another person to keep you company and keep you moving forward. The same applies to life in general.
4. Split the difference. Whichever player I have in front of me puts on his top half while I work on the bottom. Or vice versa. This works really well on days where we’re in a mad rush and it just needs to get done quickly.
5. Have them practice putting their hockey equipment on at home. They can take as much time as they need and you can show them the proper way to put it on without the pressure of a game or practice to get to.
In all honesty, it’s not something that happens overnight. And it really depends on the player. It takes time and patience and constant correction. But they all get it. I mean, really it’s just learning to dress yourself again. I dont personally recall the last time I met a 10 year old that didn’t know how to dress themselves, do you?
See you at the rink.