As parents we dish out a hundred bits of advice and instruction to our children every week. By repeating ourselves over and over we hope that we will impart some small intelligence. That we will provide them with the tools they need to be empathetic, honest, open-minded, and compassionate. That they will grow to know the difference between right and wrong, how to take responsibility for their actions, win humbly and lose graciously. But often it feels like we are a broken record that has become background noise and our children have, at best, decided we are spewing eye-roll-worthy old-people talk and, at worst, have tuned us out completely.
Then there are those moments that stop you in your tracks and convince you that you are getting through. That the seeds have been planted and some of them are starting to sprout. Those are the moments that make this whole parenting gig completely worth it.
My son’s hockey team has not had a particularly winning season. They’ve lost more than they’ve won, and a few of the games registered scores that made even the winning team feel bad for them. But they had an excellent coach who was not only encouraging, but gave every child lots of playing time and made them feel like they were good enough to be on that rink. Not once all season did my son cry a tear or throw a glove in frustration at their loses. If you had seen my son play hockey in his first season, just last year, you would know that this has not always been the case.
Today their team entered the semi-finals of the season as the 3rd seated (out of 4 teams in their division) to play the 2nd seated team. Earlier in the week my husband and I had talked about well-known under-dog stories, like the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, in an attempt to encourage him to believe their team could win the semi-finals and make it to the playoffs. When we arrived at the rink the 1st and 4th seated teams were already playing and to everyone’s amazement the 4th place team was beating an undefeated, crazy-good team of boys and girls. The game was intense and the crowd was completely wrapped in it, cheering for these underdogs. I excitedly turned to my son and said, “See Daniel! Look! The Blackhawks are winning and they’re playing the Capitals! See, just like Daddy and I told you, anything can happen. Your team has just as good of a chance as winning as the other team, even if they’ve beat you before!” I thought, this is just the pep-talk he needs to go out there and give it his all. But my dear boy had another thought. He said to me, very matter of factly, “Yeah, but it doesn’t really matter if we win. All that matters is that I have fun and try my best.” Oh. My. Word. To say my heart was bursting with pride would be an understatement. My little 8 year old son was reminding me about what was important. Things that his father and I have said to him and his sisters hundreds of times! He not only knew what to say, but he truly believed it.
I’d like to say my son’s team won their game today. They didn’t. But they played their heart’s out, and made the other team work for the win. It was a very close, very exciting game and that little 8 year old left it all on the rink. And at the end when the two teams lined up to shake hands, he was beaming with joy, just as if he had won.
Thank you God for these moments. And for trusting me and my husband to get it right, at least some of the time.