Sunday, December 15, 2013

Advocacy and the Hockey Helmet

Jack is skating for the Montgomery Cheetahs again this year, which is awesome. He’s had some really great practices and also some iffy practices and then there was that one really memorable practice that was going so terribly until one of the mentors and one of the older Cheetah players teamed up to create an individual little drill that made Jack laugh so much and skate so hard. That practice reminded me why I love this team so much. There was so much good in those moments—for all three of those kiddos.

Things like that are why I continue to get up at 6:30 am every Saturday morning to take Jack to practice. See, I am not a morning person and I would really like to sleep in until 8 on Saturdays. Even so, I like to watch Jack skate even more and (semi) happily pry my eyes open at the crack of dawn at the start of every weekend.

All of this is to let you know that me getting Jack to hockey on time on a Saturday is a whole thing in and of itself.

Last Saturday, I had Jack in the locker room, all suited up, which is no small feat considering the amount of padding that is required to play hockey. As I was tying his skates, I handed him his helmet and told him to put it on, which he did. Then he promptly started screaming and took it off.

Now, although almost all of Jack’s gear is hand-me-down donated gear from the Cheetah equipment locker, I decided this fall that his head was very important, so I actually took him to a hockey store in August and got him fitted for a helmet, which I bought at full price and which Jack has been wearing all season so far. But even though he had worn it for many weeks, this day it was not to be.

“IT HURRRRRTS!” he yelled.

“Just put it on, Jack, and it will be fine in a minute,” I told him. I figured that once he got it settled on and positioned his ears and stuff, he’d be okay. Because that helmet is fine. He’s worn it all season and it is fine.

The helmet was not fine.

I tried so hard to get him to wear that helmet. I took it off and put it back on, but once his big fat tears started rolling down his cheeks, I knew our morning was not going to go as well as it had started.

I sat there with Jack as 7:45 came and went. He had the helmet on. He was fully dressed for hockey. My mother was visiting and was excited to see him skate. I had managed to get all three of us up, dressed, and to the rink on time. The very last thing I wanted to do was take off Jack’s gear and take him home.


But I am teaching Jack to stand up for himself. I am teaching him to advocate for himself. I want him to be able to tell people when something hurts. I want him to be able to look a tough situation in the face, say “this is not okay,” and make people listen to him.

I can’t do that if *I* don’t listen to him.

The fastest way to undermine that lesson I’m trying to teach would be to disregard it when it was inconvenient to adhere to it.

I took a couple of moments to sit and breathe and watch Jack. Then I took the helmet off of his head and, even though I was frustrated and annoyed and mad and I’m sure Jack could see or sense that, I hugged and kissed him and told him to take off his gear.

We left the rink and went straight to the equipment locker so we could find a bigger helmet. I was still annoyed as hell, but I wanted Jack to know that I was proud of him for sticking up for himself even if he had upset me, so as we were stopped at a red light, I turned around, held his hand, and I told him explicitly that I was glad that he had done what he had done. I told him that if someone is doing something that makes him hurt that he should say no and that is what he did and I was proud of him for it.

Then I turned around and quietly seethed in the front seat.

When we got to the equipment locker, we proceeded to take part in the three bears version of hockey helmet fitting: This one is too big. This one is too little. This one makes me scream in pain.

Then, after a few minutes of this, Jack said, “I don’t need a different helmet. My old helmet fits fine.” Then he let me put it on him and he was all, “See? Perfect.”

Cue outer calm face and interior freak out.

We eventually determined that the helmet is usually okay, but that today it wasn’t. I get that. I understand why one week he could wear it with no problem but the next week it could be intolerable. I know it is the same head and same helmet, but sometimes it is just not the same sensation.

I ended up picking up a larger helmet to bring home with us. When Jack objected, asking why I would get another helmet when his is already perfect, I told him that I would adjust them both to where we could find one that works for him. I told him that we could put both helmets in his bag so if he has another week where his original (safer, newer, better fitted) helmet is too much for him, we will have a backup.

You should have seen the look on his face when I said that. It was sweet and calm and happy. He looked like he felt understood. We fist bumped and I said, “We’re a team, right?” and he smiled as he nodded and said yes.

Then, suddenly, our morning was all right again.

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