Tuesday, March 02, 2010

3/2/2010 First hockey lesson

Gabriel's first hockey lesson had all the makings of a disaster today.

First, we were late. I tried, but a last-minute bathroom break, slow teenagers behind the counter at the skate shop, and unfamiliar gear made everything a last-minute scramble. He got on the ice juuust in time, but it was a real stretch.

Did I say "gear" ? We had the bare minimum, but everyone else had padding and proper gloves and probably knew how to put their own helmets on. And I can't believe how much harder it was to tie (rented) hockey skates than the regular old rentals.

Though this class is supposed to be Hockey 1, it turned out to be one coach for all levels. I counted 23 kids to the one coach, including several apparent high-schoolers. And all could skate pretty well. Except for one girl (you go girl!) Gabriel was the smallest and youngest, but he was also by far the poorest skater. The girl could skate!

Add to that the unfamiliarity of the helmet and carrying the stick, plus fresh ice (just Zamboni'd, ultra-smooth) and the first time on hockey skates with an actual edge. On the first scramble across the ice, Gabriel was immediately blown away by the rest of the class.

It actually put a lump in my throat to see my little boy struggling to keep up. I felt like I'd truly thrown him in the middle of a pond and said, "swim!" and now I was watching him flail for his life.

And so I did what any responsible, concerned, loving, caring mother would do.

I left.

I had to! I had to get Katrina. Julian wanted to stay and watch Gabriel, so I left him too, and rushed off to pick her up. That proved to be among the most stressful drives I've ever had. I couldn't quit thinking that I'd abandoned my boys at the ice rink, one of them wearing head and foot gear that he couldn't remove himself.

On top of it, at 5:30, the traffic is significantly worse than when I'm usually driving around. 10 minutes makes a big difference in Silicon Valley. Every light, every long line of cars, every delay made me increasingly anxious. I was a road rage accident waiting to happen.

Turns out, my rush wasn't necessary. Apparently the class goes to 6pm, despite the Web site saying 5:45pm. When I returned, both boys were, expectedly, just fine. Julian disapproved of the absence of a puck -- how can it be hockey without a puck? (good question) -- but the coach apparently had noticed Gabriel's handicap and gave him a few minutes of private instruction.

Gabriel always skated last and held up the class, so I hope they cotton on to the idea that maybe a teacher-to-student ration of 1:23, with an age range of 8-16, probably isn't the best.

Gabriel had the most enthusiastic cheering section though.

Regular readers know that Gabriel's strong personality, his nearly impenetrable thick skin, his iron will can make him pretty hard to live with sometimes. But it also pulls him through challenging situations like this. It just doesn't occur to him that he's the smallest and weakest skater. When he's the last skater in the whole group, he does everything he can to keep up. When he can't make it around a cone, he tries again. He doesn't crumble, he doesn't give up, he never cries. Not that any of this would be wrong -- he just doesn't do it.

And so, the lump in my throat turned from one of worry into one of pride, at the persistence and resilience of my firstborn tough little cookie.

He wasn't exactly bouncing off the walls about the experience, though. His head hurt from the helmet (a Dad told me it should be adjustable), and I think he expected to be able to actually play more. Indeed, the tremendous student:teacher ratio is daunting. But I think the next class, with most of the unknowns gone, will go a lot better for him.

His sister, on the other hand, wasn't so gracious about leaving the ice rink. "I HATE DINNER!" she loudly declared in answer to my explanation why we needed to go home, to the amusement of many surrounding parents. At home, she was bouncing off the walls herself, all excited about seeing skating and hockey and claiming she wants to do this too. Good!

And me...this was exactly the logistical insanity I was expecting, and then some (I'd underestimated the traffic). I can't wait for the first time one of Julian's T-ball games lands on the same day as Gabriel's hockey lesson. Then I will truly have arrived as Sports-Mom.


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