In the regular day-to-day of my life, it is easy to forget that each one of my children is a truly remarkable human being. Last night, in the smelly change room of our local hockey arena, I was reminded.
Simon is away in Seattle on business which meant that, last night, I was the hockey parent. Zach had a Select game against his former teammates from last year’s league and he was totally pumped for it. To not only see but also to play against his former teammates was just the pinnacle of his hockey success this season. And not only that, but to do what he loves most in the world; to compete, to sweat, to lean into the team dynamic.
Zachary just loves every single aspect of the game of hockey.
When I picked Zach up from school yesterday afternoon he noticed that one of my tires was flat. I had no option but to deal with it promptly so I dropped all the boys off at home and headed up to my trusty Canadian Tire auto service. After a long two hour wait I could feel the time crunch I was under and I was stressed. I had an hour to rush home, feed the boys, get Zach ready for his game and make sure the other boys were ready for their evening of shinny in the local park.
At 6:25 I dropped Max, Michael and a buddy at the skating rink and continued on to the hockey arena. After all that I had gone through to get there on time and with all the gear Zach would need, I was thrilled when we pulled up outside the arena at 6:30 on the dot- we had made it in perfect time for the 7:00 game. I dropped an excited Zach off to start changing and went to park the car.
A few minutes later I walked into the arena and one look at Zachary’s face told me something was wrong. ‘The game was at 6:00 mom, not 7:00.’ I was gobsmacked. I was so sure the game was at 7:00 that even when I looked on my calendar I thought I would see that I had been correct.
The game was nearing the end of the first period when I left Zach in the change room to get ready. I ran into the rink to make my apologies and ask whether Zach should get dressed for the game. The answer was; ‘not this one, Zach will have to sit out and just watch the game.’ When I returned to the change room to let Zach know that he could not play, I noticed that he had been crying. His face looked pale and his eyes were damp.
He was bitterly disappointed and I was absolutely crushed.
I had messed up and I had let him down. I had not double-checked the time and he had missed the game that he had been so excited to be a part of. My stomach was in knots and it was all I could do not to cry.
Zach decided that he would rather go and join his brothers at the park to play shinny than to watch the game. He was pumped for hockey and he needed some ice time. He looked so sad as he slowly donned his hockey gear that my heart was just breaking for him. And all I could say was; ‘I’m so sorry’.
As I leaned in to help him tie up his skates he looked me right in the eye and said; ‘I wasn’t supposed to play in that game tonight mommy.’
I was so enrolled in my own guilt and my own emotional response that I didn’t understand what he was saying to me at first. ‘Maybe I was going to get a bad concussion. Maybe I was going to blow out my knee and be out for the season. Maybe I was going to get badly hurt. I was not supposed to play tonight.’
With the bitter disappointment he was feeling, Zachary managed to dig deep and to shift perspective. He was trying to tell me that he didn’t blame me and that there were no hard feelings between us. He was trying to make me feel better and to let me off the hook for my mistake.
He was trying to make me feel better.
It did not make me feel better, however. It actually made me feel worse that my nine-year-old was having to manage my emotional response and talk me off the ledge.
A few minutes later I dropped Zach at the park to play shinny and his brothers were delighted to see him. His parting words were; ‘I am so happy to be here mommy, I’ll get so much more ice time in the park than I would have if I had played the game, I love you.’
And he walked away.
I drove home with an ache in my heart. I had let Zach down and that was all that I could see.
Simon phoned from Seattle a few moments after I got home and he was the one who helped me to see the gift in what had taken place that evening.
And the gift is this; yes, Zachary was disappointed that he couldn’t play the game. But rather than freaking out and having a tantrum, rather than blaming me for messing up, rather than claiming the victim, he put our relationship first. He shifted perspective and he invited me to do the same. And, even when he didn’t see the shift in me that he was hoping for, he didn’t waver. Zach lovingly and maturely let me off the hook and gave me the space to slowly shift my own perspective.
He leaned into his love for me. He leaned into family and relationship. He leaned into what truly matters. And he put our relationship first.