Two years ago, my son was in love with skating.
Attending public skating was a weekly occurrence for us. Mind you, the majority consisted of me doing the bulk of it – anyone who has carried around a 35-pound two year old for an hour, lap after lap around a rink, can attest that it’s not the easiest activity in the world. But Finn couldn’t get enough, and gradually I would have him stand on his own blades longer and longer as he became more comfortable on ice.
Nearing the end of the season into early March 2020 he was getting pretty good for a lad of only two and a half. He could skate the full distance between the blue lines (with me serving as a support apparatus, of course), and was more willing to have a go of it on his own rather than just me hauling him around like a giggling sack of potatoes.
Yes, things were going swimmingly. And then things ground to a halt in mid-March.
I’ve written in the past about my general reluctance to well, write columns with a focus on the pandemic. I have chosen to not encompass my bi-weekly column space around a topic that has been all-encompassing for the past two years, hence the influx of history commentaries here in the op/ed section once or twice a month.
The pandemic was largely responsible for putting a stop to our weekly skating sessions. In retrospect, I should have constructed an outdoor rink in our backyard last winter, as many did. But sometimes life gets busy, and I guess I simply ran out of gas. Lame excuse perhaps, but it’s the truth.
As things gradually opened up these last few months, organized skating very much arrived on my radar as something that Finn could take up as a recreational activity this winter. He happily consented when I asked him if I could sign him up for weekly skating sessions in Kurtzville, a place where I spent a good deal of time on the ice in my younger days. I was stoked, and so was he. After an 18-month hiatus, my boy was getting back on track in his first steps in becoming a future hockey star.
The first session started out well enough. After a slight hesitation, Finn let me hand him off to one of the great volunteers who would show him the ropes for the next half hour. He looked to be getting fairly comfortable out there, even sent me a couple happy waves when he was feeling brave enough to let go of one helping hand. And then – thud! Down he went.
Finn hadn’t had a significant fall on the ice up until that point, and a rapid realization must have washed over him as he lay there like a motionless seal, the wails starting to come. Ice is hard. And it hurts when you fall on it.
Somehow, I convinced him to finish the session. But getting him out to the next one the following week would prove to be much more difficult. He was ready to pack it in after opening night, and after I told him he wouldn’t be able to play hockey later on if he didn’t learn how to skate, without hesitation he told me he didn’t want to play hockey.
Knife, meet heart. And twist…
Actually I had kind of expected this for a while. After watching Finn play his first season of soccer this past summer I got the impression that he wasn’t going to be a ‘sportser.’ At least not a prolific one. My son’s idea of a fun soccer game revolved primarily around him repeatedly circling members of the other team – and often his own – and ‘preventing them from scoring’ with his all-purpose claw hand that projected some sort of invisible force field. Top marks for creativity. And at least he was getting exercise.
It’s really not the end of the world for me if my kids choose not to play sports, so long as they find something they truly enjoy in terms of a hobby. After dragging him out to that second skating session, Finn found he enjoyed it again and it’s been markedly better each time since. As you read this, he’ll have completed six of eight sessions, and has already asked to keep going through the winter.
So all is not perhaps lost yet on the skating/hockey future. And while it’s unlikely he’ll be the next Claude Giroux, I’m fine with that and whatever happens, happens. Some kids are just late bloomers.
Now if he does eventually get into hockey and one day says he’s going to cheer for the Pittsburgh Penguins, then we’ve got real problems.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you back here in a fortnight.
This is a bi-weekly opinion column; for question or comment contact Dan McNee at firstname.lastname@example.org.