I am a hockey mom

My neighbours came over for dinner the other night and remarked on my new dining room accessories:  two hockey jerseys hanging from the chandeliers.

Nice touch, Astra” says one.

Are we seriously eating dinner in here?” says another.

What gives?” they all ask in unison.

You see, though my daughter is still playing, my two boys have recently decided to hang up their goalie skates and gear ending their phenomenally successful 11-year minor hockey careers.

I struggled with how to honour this momentous occasion (beyond the impressive little happy dance I did in the privacy of our garage and long-anticipated clink! of wine glasses I shared with my husband).  It was both a proud moment and a little depressing too.  It was a day to both rejoice and grieve …laugh and cry.

So in keeping with a tradition well-known in many sport circles, I’ve decided to retire their jersey numbers.  They’re hockey careers are done (until their initiation to the beer-leagues) and it just wouldn’t feel right to see other kids sporting their famous jersey numbers.  It’s just the right thing to do.

I arranged a very special ceremony.  I respectfully invited members of their hockey association executive who were not able to attend but whose touching response (“You are hereby requested to return the two jerseys to our association or face a replacement fee of $80 + HST each”) brought tears to my eyes.  Members of the community also received gracious invitations to the event and though not in attendance, they were delighted to pass on their congratulations and acknowledgement of my sons’ many accomplishments. (“The outstanding credit on your skate-sharpening card will be voided at the end of the month unless used in full”).  A full contingent of friends and family members were also expected (“Sorry we can’t make it – unlike you, the rest of us are still busy with hockey!”).  I shed a tear or two as I proudly hoisted those two jerseys to the rafters (noting that said rafters have to be dusted since I now lack any excuse to avoid housecleaning).

It was the perfect denouement to complete their (short-lived) calling to minor hockey …  and my life as a humble hockey mom (that is, until my daughter retires).

Just like Mammy said in Gone with the Goalie Pads:   “I done paid for 3 sets of goalie equipment and it sho is a happy day!  It sho is a happy day!”

As you can well imagine, my husband thinks I’ve gone totally crazy.

He thinks they should be hung from the ceiling in our bedroom.

All she wanted was to be with him. She looked at him with those tell-all eyes. There was no denying that he wanted her too. He could not confess this to anyone, though, because there were others he wanted just as dearly. He knew the truth:  the only reason she wanted to be with him was to be closer to her – another ‘she’. He could put up with her incessant pleading no more. “I am but one man! I can only do so much!” he implored. It didn’t matter. He knew there would be many more compromises and sacrifices to come.

And so go the trade negotiations in girls’ recreational minor hockey sort-out scrimmages. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, mouthguard for mouthguard – it’s a delicate dance of the chicks with sticks and a genuinely demanding job for the coaches.

My daughter’s hockey association is fielding 6 teams this year at her age level, and I admit that in recreational hockey that it’s important that the teams are as equitably balanced as possible from a skill perspective. When one or two teams are stacked with highly skilled players, it only serves to diminish everyone else’s enjoyment and development. My daughter’s enjoyment of the game is very important to me. Why else would I get up at some God-forsaken time of the day to drive her to a 7:00am practice (next Sunday, by the way, folks).

But enough about my daughter, let’s talk about me.

Each year I pray to my inebriated divine spirit that the recreational hockey sort-outs will result in team placements that meet with my expectations too. After all, with each player comes a set of parents … and grandparents … and siblings. We will spend a lot of time together, upwards of 100 hours in fact, not including 3 full weekends away at hockey tournaments and other team functions. So each year, I pray that my fellow hockey parents will accept me. And by “accept me”, I mean talk to me. I mean, if I say potAto and she says potahto, it’s no big deal, but if I say pinot grigio and she says Jose Cuervo, well, there might be some sorting out to do off the ice before the first tournament of the season (unless of course there’s a designated driver; then it’s all good).

This year, I’ve decided this year to issue  this practical, and oh-so-helpful, 3-point list for all my fellow hockey parents to ensure we understand each other from the outset.  It’s a long season, people, and I think this will go equally a long way to eliminate animosity and uneasiness amongst us all (and by “all”, I mean me):

  1. When I confess to you that I am a veteran hockey mom entering my 12th season, please don’t take this to mean that I know anything about hockey. I don’t. In all my years as a hockey parent, my appreciation for the game does not exceed an enhanced ability to stitch name bars on the back of hockey jerseys and pack 3 hockey bags in one vehicle. I am still working on fitting in the accompanying 3 players.
  2. I travel to tournaments with a glass wine glass. I have standards. I also have feelings so please don’t make fun of me until I am out of earshot.
  3. I do not own a vuvuzela. And if you happen to own a vuvuzela, do not sit next to me or behind me. Because I, on the other hand, do happen to own a cast iron frying pan and carry it with me in my purse. Consider yourself warned.

I have an infinite amount of patience for rookie hockey players, but diminishing patience for rookie hockey parents, so let’s all just understand each other okay. And by “understand each other”, I mean understand me.

Because now I’ve got far bigger worries as a hockey mom:  despite the fact that sort outs are done and team rosters are complete, it’s not over. No, not by a long shot.

Now begins the business of assigning the girls’ jersey numbers. 

Lord have mercy … and pinot grigio.

Like many other women, I never even considered a life of crime until I became a wife and mother.  So now I have a confession to make:   I’m a money launderer (or is that launderess?). It’s a great scam but certainly not one I entered knowingly or intentionally.  It’s also a dangerous business considering the RCMP officers and alum in my social circle.  Nevertheless, as a mom with no less than 10 loads of laundry a week, it’s a living.

Okay, it’s time to come clean and air that dirty laundry.
This week I collected 13 cents from the bottom of my boys’ laundry basket.

Then I collected 52 cents from their jean pockets.

I found a crumpled $5 bill in my husband’s golf shorts.

$5.65 cents from a couple of loads of laundry.

That’s a pretty penny, with no investment except for the sweat equity.  Since Canada mints $1 and $2 coins, I normally don’t find too many bills in our laundry but certainly not unusual for me to collect a loonie or two here and there.  I average $1.50 in our weekly laundry either in pre-wash pocket-picking or tumbling about the dryer.  Sadly, my daughter’s clothes yield nothing but the hole burned in each pocket that may have at one point held a coin but has long since disappeared into the till of the local convenience store.

The loose change I collect on a weekly basis would surely buy a homeless person lunch; however, my intentions are far more capitalistic. The motto of this money launderess?  Finders Keepers!

$1.50 a week in change is $78 a year!  Having invested this $78 in Apple Computers when I married 20 years ago, I am now ready to pay for my son’s first year of university!  The $78 from the year after, I invested Disney stock and I am set to pay for my flight to Florida (to visit Disney World of course).

[Note:  I’m making this all up by the way, by the way]

People, forget the Swear Jar –  especially since, if you’re at all like me, it’s entirely self-funded.  We are talking some serious income –yielding investments here!  Money laundering is producing my nest egg!

The downside to mining this wealth, of course, is the less appealing bonuses often yielded like chewed gum, used tissues and the occasional baby tooth.  But like any dangerous business, the money laundering market carries with it some risk – risk that I say is worth enduring for the sake of enhancing my financial future.

Take it from me: doing the laundry is a gravy train (or stain) and is a perfectly safe way to lose your shirt and make ends meet (and socks too, if you’re really lucky).

I felt a day late and a dollar short-changed while my kids were away at camp (and believe me, post-camp laundry is no cash cow and certainly produces no riches worth saving) but September is just around the corner when routine – and income – will be the norm once again.

I don’t take any wooden nickels, but if you have any other domestic investment advice, I’d love to hear your two cents!

That’s right, I said ceasefire!  Now that the kids’ hockey seasons are over, I can briefly back off firing on all cylinders.  Do you know how I know that the kids’ hockey season is over?  Well, in the last week alone –

I didn’t have to navigate my groceries into a car filled with hockey bags and water bottles. 

I ate dinner … sitting down. 

I actually cooked dinner, consulting Martha Stewart instead of Mr. Mozzarella.

I made a dinner reservation for 2 people instead of 40 people. 

I took my bottle of wine out of the refrigerator instead of a cooler.

There is a clean hockey blanket sitting on top of my dryer.

I did not launder a single piece of UnderArmor.

I watched a movie that does not star Don Cherry. 

I answered the door and the local gas station attendant was asking if I could come out to play.

I did not name a single one of the dust bunnies that have multiplied under my kitchen table. 

Not once did I make a pit-stop to the skate sharpener.  

I shaved my legs.

With three kids in hockey, August to April is indescribably busy. My non-hockey friends have all but left me for dead and the truth is I’ve had to check my own pulse once in a while just to be sure.  Some days I felt certain both the car and I were on autopilot.  During the hockey season, dinner party invitations are almost always declined unless I am confident the hostess wouldn’t mind either my husband or me showing up just as the food is being cleared from the table.  Our attendance at family gatherings is prioritized according to the scale of declining inheritance. 

Spring sports haven’t quite geared up which means I am between gigs. I feel like I’ve surfaced for air and am actually accomplishing more than just treading water. I feel like I’m surfing.  My husband asked the other night, “You’re going out again?!” and I answered, “Yes, again!”

Yes, I’m going “out” again, I am making an appearance at my book club, I am out running in the spring air and training for my May half marathon. We are going out to dinner parties, TOGETHER, and participating fully in these rare social events from cocktails through to dessert.

I am also staying “in” again.  I am reading, I am writing and I am sleeping. And I am ridding my home of a few unwanted dust bunnies.

Is this what a normal life feels like?

I know it’s shortlived, however.  I know this armistice is really just a tenuous treaty between me and iCal, who swings from ally to enemy on an almost daily basis.  Soon Spring will hit the fan and I’ll be chasing down stray pieces of soccer and baseball equipment and back to logging on the miles driving to various clubs and lessons.  Not like we do between August and April, though.  No.  Hockey season is a formidable beast… and this beast is now in hibernation.

Even though our local hockey association has an enrolment of over 500 minor hockey players, they do not run a girls-only hockey development program.  This, despite the fact that Hockey Canada confirms enrolment for young girls is on the rise while, enrolment for boys is stagnant.  So my daughter is registered with a neighbouring community that does offer girls hockey.  This much larger neighbouring community runs an excellent girls hockey association that operates over 40 teams (some recreational, some competitive) and so develops over 700 girls in the sport of hockey.

But my daughter’s hockey association does not accept friend requests.  Not “friend requests” a la Facebook lexicon, but rather the registrar of the association will not entertain requests for organizing friends on the same team.  It’s a strict policy so I’m not sure how my friend and neighbour who lives just down the street managed it, but her daughter and my daughter (also friends … very convenient) have been on the same team for two straight seasons now.  If my friend told me she had to sleep with the president of the association to make it happen, I’d believe her, and support her.  I’d take one for the team too if it meant our girls got on the same team roster again.  The truth is, I guess she knows the right people, and this is critical … because it means we can carpool.

We take turns with most practices but particularly with those early morning practices (sometimes our husbands even take them), and as an added benefit we let the girls have a sleepover so only one hockey mom’s sleep is disturbed by that early morning buzzer alarm.  You may think I’ve inhaled a little too many zamboni fumes, but once in a while, those early morning hockey practices are actually not so bad.

Sunrise over farm (not my farm), SMN via Flicker

As I rose at 0600 this past Sunday morning, I patted myself on the back for getting to bed early on a Saturday night (true, I have no life, so there weren’t too many alternatives), and able to accomplish this without hitting the snooze bar.  In doing so, I also managed to successfully avert the Sunday morning nookie my husband was counting on (though probably not at 0600).

I gently woke the girls, quietly reminded them of our hockey practice and that we had to be in the car in twenty minutes, shut the boys’ bedroom door for fear of another giggle fest, and moved along to the kitchen to fix their breakfast.  I filled my trusty travel mug with deliciously fresh coffee, while they quietly finished their toast and OJ and then gathered their gear and headed to the car.  No arguing, no whining, no complaining.  They were both surprisingly and uncharacteristically accommodating.  What do they call this again?  Maturity?  I like it!   The car was almost as quiet as was the breakfast, save for the radio trying to snap us all out of our respective reveries.  I drove north, then east, and watched the sun peak out over the farm fields.  It was gorgeous.  “This is not so bad “, I thought and started to consider a few other positive attributes of these early mornings:

  • I get to zip along an almost-deserted highway; one that is otherwise usually clogged and polluted with commuters. I imagine every other driver is either heading off to work or heading off to hockey, just like me with their coffee mugs close at hand.
  • My passengers are stone cold silent – a far cry from their giggly 11-year old pre-bedtime selves the night before.  No one complains about my music selections, either (rare. very rare).
  • I can take pleasure in noting that the days are getting longer:  the sun is already peaking out at 630am.
  • There is ample parking in the garage at the university athletic facility where the practice is being held.  It certainly won’t be like this later on today.
  • Few parents are overly social at this hour so I get an entire hours’ worth of uninterrupted reading and writing before I hear the beep! beep! of the Zamboni shooing the skaters off the ice and beckoning me back to my Den Mom duties in the dressing room.
  • While I do  provide transportation, I do not have to go out there on the ice.  I can sit here and read, write and drink my lovely, fresh coffee.  There are five Dads out there right now and 16 eleven and twelve year olds who are not.

Goalie Girl

Now, with an hour’s worth of exercise behind them, the girls were chippier and chattier and the spirit that I associate with a girls hockey team dressing room had resumed.  They nattered on about their big plans for the day and week ahead, their hair, their clothes … MY clothes even.  Everything was back to normal and I felt a headache coming on.

We returned home shortly after 9am on this hockey morning, just as my husband was finishing up his breakfast and teenage boys were still not conscious.  I know that soon my daughter will be among those longing to sleep in on weekends.  When my three were still babies, a neighbour of mine with teenagers grumbled that at least I still had my evenings.  She, with teenagers, went to bed hours before them, leaving them to turn off the lights, the TV and to lock the doors.  This was certainly true at the time.  When all were nestled in their beds, I usually had some part of the evening to myself.  I can now sense my time zones shifting as well, just as my neighbour predicted.  However, though I may not have evenings to myself any longer, the mornings will all soon be mine again.  If I can meet these mornings with the same heart that which this morning was greeted, then I won’t complain for any lack of “me” time.  It will be there … just during a different time slot.

If this past Sunday morning early practice is any indication, I am ready to multi-task:  to rise AND shine!

* Just to be clear lest my daughter is expelled from her association:  I’m entirely certain my friend did not have to sleep with the president of the association.

Do you rise and shine or prefer the midnight oil?

A Zamboni is a truck-like vehicle that melts and mends the ice in a hockey arena. It cleans and levels the rough edges of the ice, leaving a smooth surface.

I shall not soon forget The Great Hockey Weekend of 2012:  Three hockey tournaments, three kids, three round robin games each = nine games MINIMUM in a 48-hour period.  One weekend.  One mom.  To say that I was emotionally distressed about pulling this one off is an understatement.  Its enormity was foretold months ago when my husband announced he was going golfing in Florida, the first weekend in February. “During hockey season?!” I screeched. “Who goes golfing during hockey season?!”

Well, apparently I know one such person.

And so I self-diagnosed myself with a new anxiety disorder known only to hockey moms: confero singularis formido (or fear of the solo tournament weekend).   Look it up!

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “Oh God, please don’t let this be another pre-menopausal bitch ranting about how underappreciated she is …”, because it’s not;  I’m saving all that for my book!  Instead, I wish to pay tribute to those who help out in a pinch (or see a stark raving mad woman in serious need of an intervention because it’s truly a fine line).

The hockey family.

The hockey family is the one connected to me and this crazy sport who is outside my immediate family – those I can count on in a pinch. Seeing as this particular pinch was more of a circulation-inhibited, full-on head lock, I needed a hockey miracle of Paul Henderson proportions to get me through. And since my husband failed to come through with a mistress who was willing to help out with the hockey driving, I called in the Reserve.  My Reserve Unit consists of extended family and other hockey parents.

Over Christmas, my mother-in-law lamented that none of my kids had participated in a tournament near their home north of Toronto and she missed seeing them play. Ooooo, the Angel of Hockey Mercy hath rested her wing in the goal crease. “Well, have I got the weekend for you…” my plea began.  The reinforcements, aka my in-laws, were treated to rare grandkid-hockey-fest and able to catch at least one game of each grandchild. It is entirely possible that they would have preferred to do so over a slightly longer stretch of time (i.e. maybe not 5 games in 36 hours next time) but never mind that for now. It is also entirely possible that they would have preferred to eat something other than take-out pizza and copious amounts of coffee but never mind that either. I was grateful for their ‘service’ even if it meant me changing the sheets and towels.

The hockey family.

Hockey moms often refer to other hockey moms as part of their extended family.  Considering how much time you spend with them at arenas, on tournament weekends and various other social events associated with their kids’ sports schedules from August through April, they might as well be kin.  The parents on my kids’ teams come from all walks of life, many of whom have chosen paths on which I wouldn’t dare walk, who wouldn’t dream of walking in my path, and who’ll walk off in different directions after the games and practices and tournaments are over.  But all this past weekend, they walked beside me all the way.  For every single person who offered to help with pick ups and drops offs for my three kids, I am thankful.  And for every single person who asked me how I was holding up this past weekend, I am thankful!  This particular weekend, I am thankful to no less than eight people who drove, fed, or housed my three kids somewhere (or did all three).  Now, one could argue that such assistance is intentional because I am mother to three goalies and the team kinda needs a goalie, but that’s ok; they were still on my side.  God Bless ’em!

A bolt of lightening is about to strike me dead, but when only one of my three teams advanced, I felt some disappointment for them but mostly relief for me; a fact that will likely not endear me to other hockey moms. But we all know my hockey/yoga co-dependency so I was hppy for their eliminations because they permitted my Sunday morning yoga class.  The parting words of my yoga instructor on Sunday morning could not have been better scripted had she been speaking directly to me.  “I hope you will take this feeling of gratitude in having devoted time well spent on yourself and extend it to those around you. Put forth an attitude of gratitude” … and with no bolt of lightening either!  With post-yoga latte in one hand and a basket of dirty laundry in the other, I felt as relaxed as a mom with 90% of her ‘to-do’ list still to do, but feeling gratitude for those who’d help me get through. I looked at the dogs (because they were the only ones still interested in my company) and shared a happy thought, “Hey!  We made it!” which was immediately followed by a not-so-happy thought, “Oh my God, did anyone feed you guys this weekend?!” So sincere thanks to my hockey family for helping me out this weekend and for making my rough ice a little smoother – a Zamboni of my own indeed.

Did you ever look upon a task with so much dread, only to find joy in it through the grace of others?

A word cloud is a graphical representation of word frequency. The word hockey stands out in my word cloud (made courtesy of www.wordl.net ) and a lot of other words scattered around it… like mom, love, writing… (actually kind of surprised that the word chardonnay does not appear there – it’s gotta be there!). So this was the mother of all hockey weekends where hockey, mom, love, and a little writing, once again featured prominently… as they always do in my life.

Occasionally I have to miss my Sunday morning yoga class, and this is not a good thing.  Squeezing my yoga practice before, between, or after work and kids’ hockey, is a challenge but one that has proven to be an essential antidote to a busy hockey mom’s schedule.  It also happens to but one of this hockey mom’s current addictions –  superseded only by chardonnay, of course.  It is entirely possible that if I wasn’t a hockey mom, I might not need the balance that yoga provides.  That all my children are still alive proves that the benefits of its practice spill over into all aspects of my life.  I’ve been a hockey mom now for about as long as I have been practicing yoga (~twelve years, give or take a practice or pose) and am only now ready to own up to my hockey/yoga co-dependency! 

How do I know that I am co-dependent on both hockey and yoga?  Well, you be the judge:

My Yoga Life

My Hockey Life

   
My breath is slow and deliberate, and I am mindful of it. My breath is a gasp for air … and I am worried about it.
With each deep breath, I inhale 1.5 litres of oxygen. With each hockey weekend, I inhale 1.5 litres of chardonnay.
I open my practice with the chanting of “Om” in unison with the class. I open the hockey game with the chanting of “Let’s go!” in unison with the crowd.
I’m dressed in casual, comfortable organic wear. I’m dressed for a post-apocalyptic ice age.
I cast my gaze beyond my finger tips toward my destiny. I cast my gaze to my fingertips in which clumps of my hair can be found.
My face is soft. My face is frozen.
I initiate my practice with sun salutation. I initiate anything hockey with Semillon salutations.
I stretch my glutes. I freeze my glutes.
Hands at heart’s centre … Namaste. Hands at heart’s centre:  … “Clear it … Clear it …. DAMMIT CLEAR THE PUCK!!!”
Herbal tea is offered following class – free of charge. Caustic canteen coffee is available – acid reflux is free of charge.  
I open my ears to the soothing sounds of tranquil yoga music. I cover my daughter’s ears from the sounds of the teenage boys’ chirpin’ and swearin’.
During yoga, I occasionally close my eyes. During hockey, I frequently close my eyes.
I love my yoga! I love my hockey!

Namaste, team!

Author’s note:  I proudly and gratefully acknowledge my 11-year old daughter for her artistic renderings of these hockey yoginis – also the artist of my dust bunny icon.  She is presently negotiating her contract to illustrate my hockey mom-oir…

Oh, the happy sights and sounds of Christmas are pervading my happy home: carols a-playing, tree lights a-twinkling, candles a-flickering, the mixer a-mixing, wine glasses a-clinking and of course … kids a-bitching.   “Joy to the …”  how does that one go again?

I really like Christmas traditions.

Like the year I started the tradition of letting the kids open one (1) gift on Christmas Eve.  This tradition was necessitated by a Christmas morning family photo in which my daughter was wearing her older brother’s hand-me-down thread-bare Pokémon pajamas with a hole in one knee, both my sons were shirtless and in boxers, and my husband did a reasonable (posterior) impersonation of Dave the Plumber, if you know what I mean.  Their initial excitement towards this new tradition disappeared almost as quickly as Karen’s homemade Christmas fudge as they soon realized that I got to choose the gift they opened, and they each got new pajamas each and every Christmas Eve. They hate this tradition almost as much as they hate their new pajamas, but I love my annual G-rated family photo. To each their own traditions, right?

I am looking forward to another of our annual traditions. I love that one of my neighbours organizes an annual Father-Son holiday hockey game, right around Christmas, at the local arena right around the corner from our home.  It’s a tradition that started about 7 years ago when my boys were only 7 and 8 year old – barely a few years into their respective minor hockey careers, and their dad, my husband, was a recently inducted member of the beer adult recreational league.   According to my daughter, however, there is a major problem with this tradition:  she’s not a part of it.  XY Chromosome or penis must be present to play in this hockey game – and typically both conditions are met (I think) with all its participants .  So I have to remind her, that I am not the host, our neighbour is free to invite whomever he chooses, and I am not about to jeopardize my invite to the after-party with a poorly-timed feminist tirade on gender equity (I don’t actually say all that, I just tell her to suck it up). She suggests a counter-attack but the thought of an on-ice Mother-Daughter hockey event triggers sheer terror in me and am certain my $500 max on my group insurance physiotherapist fees would prove insufficient.

Father-Son Group from 2005

I do however love my off-ice role in this annual event as the official photographer. Yes, I get to take the big group picture with some 24 fathers and sons in full hockey gear, but then one by one, each dad and son(s) skate up to me for their annual Father-Son hockey portrait. It’s the second best part of the whole event for me! In seven years, most of these boys have gone from being propped up by Dad, to towering over Dad. It’s enough to make this mom’s heart swell with pride, no matter who is in front of my lens. Any discussion of a Dads versus the Sons match-up would now be entirely delusional as there is no way the dads could survive a full-out game against their much younger counterparts – not without shorting out the arena’s electrical as a result of portable defibrillator unit overuse. Sensibly, the teams continue to be mixed. Once the game starts, I am usually relegated back to the kitchen and to busy food preparation for the after-party at our neighbour’s home, just across the street. The official outcome of the game is rarely conveyed to me, and is probably not integral to this tradition in the first place.

So my daughter has vowed to boycott the upcoming 7th Annual Father-Son Hockey Game with her now familiar and repetitive, “It’s not fair!” protest. And you know what I said? “Go right ahead!  If you need me, I’m across the street.” She is now old enough to stay home alone. I am sure, however, knowing that pizza, pop and more of Karen’s Christmas fudge await her across the street, we’ll find our sad but sporty little elf at the door at some point during the afternoon, if only to kick someone’s butt in the annual ball hockey game down in our neighbour’s basement. To each their own traditions!

Unlike many who feel lonely and isolated during this time of year, I am part of a vibrant, lively neighbourhood and am thankful for this annual tradition to toast our friendships. My annual post-after-party hangover? Not so much. But … to each their own traditions, right?!

From my daughter’s potty  mouth, not mine:
What holiday traditions piss you off?

Middle age is when you choose your cereal for the fiber, not the toy!

Normally when I read Scott Feschuk’s articles in Maclean’s magazine, I laugh so hard I pee my pants.  This is not as bad as it sounds because I usually only get to read Maclean’s in the bathroom, so don’t worry. 

A recent Feschuk column, however still humourous, was a bit more philosophical as he contemplated his own midlife crisis.  What really caught my attention, without the accompanying incontinence, was a comment in reply to his column.  A Dr. Drummond, author of the The Midlife Crisis Handbook  (how perfect is this for that hard-to-buy-for-in-midlife-crisis someone on your list?), pointed out that, “Midlife Crisis is a term first used by Elliott Jacques in a research paper in 1965 where he discussed the angst of middle aged men in big business. They were asking the question, Is this all there is? and really struggling with whether or not their feelings called for a big change in their lives.  A functional Midlife Crisis is a massive shortcut to living your dreams when it is done well and done on purpose.”

If posing the query, “Is this all there is?” designates a midlife crisis, then everyone in my family is having one on a fairly regular basis – particularly around dinner time.

Secondly, a “…massive shortcut to living your dreams?  There’s only one shortcut I know to living my dreams, and it’s called Lotto649.

So in contrast to Dr. Drummond’s definition, clearly the midlife crisis that all your neighbours want to talk about is a dysfunctional Midlife Crisis:  running off with the secretary, buying a motorcycle or a leasing two-seater sportscar – none of which are particularly sensible for a married man in his midlife! 

I took a different approach and recently preempted my husband’s midlife crisis by giving him permission to take on a mistress.  Yep, a marital hall pass.  My one and only condition was that she have her own car and is willing to drive our kids to hockey.  Not surprisingly, he has no takers so far, and my dear husband is suggesting that’s because the 30-somethings in his life aren’t big on hockey.  I say the 30-somethings in his life aren’t big on him.

Funny how the crises of most women involve altering the effects of time, whereas for men it involves fooling the effects of time.  As for me, I figure I’ve had at least a dozen midlife crises along my journey, which Dr. Drummond thankfully points out is perfectly normal.  It’s doubtful I would mourn the choices I’ve made in life and entirely unthinkable for me to take dysfunctional action to undo any of them.  I have no shortage of complaints about what new dysfunction plagues my body and mind these days but the midlife decisions that plague most women hold no controversy for me:  if it involves needles or knives, I just need to get over myself.  Which means of course that most of my midlife crises go entirely unnoticed…that is … until that crisis is interrupted by yet another of Life’s existential mysteries:  did we run out of peanut butter again?

How will you handle your midlife crisis?

She sits across from us scrolling information on her computer screen.  Looking at her my first thought is, ‘Are you even old enough to be a doctor?’  but don’t dare to ask that out loud. She seeks out my son’s electronic medical file.  She makes eye contact with us both briefly, and says, “Just checking the latest protocols …” before initiating her furious typing.  The thought, ‘Your mama must be so proud you can type so fast after 8 many years of university’  is added to my growing list of undeserving mental criticisms of this woman.  Her barrage of questions then begins…inhale.

Did he lose consciousness?

No.

Does he seem dazed and confused?

Pretty regularly, but not especially, no.

Did he lose his balance?

I think so.

Is he experiencing difficulty with his vision?

Yes.

Does he feel nauseous?

Yes.

Is he experiencing headaches?

Yes.

Is he moody?

Uh- well – he’s a teenager [she’s not smiling]. Okay, not really, I guess.

This line of questioning is followed by a serious of physical tests:

Stand on one foot and look forward.
Now tap you other foot on the ground.
Now stand still with both eyes closed.
Now tap you finger to your nose and tap it to my finger, following my finger.
Look up.
Look down.
Look left.
Look right.
Intact.  Good. [Upon checking both ears}
Any sensitivity to light? [Upon checking both eyes].

Yes.

Now a series of questions directed at my son:

What’s your name?

How old are you?

What year is this?

Where are you?

Where were you born?

This is what I recall of the standard protocol the doctor must follow in her assessment of my son’s need for a CT scan.  

In a pre-game warm-up, my son was whacked on the side of his head with a searing slap shot.  He wasn’t even looking at this shooter, focusing instead on another.  No time to demonstrate his incomparable glove hand.  He didn’t even see it coming.  He was stunned.  Then …he shook it off and played his game. Now I realize that continued play was probably a big mistake.

My son has suffered a concussion. 

It could be nothing.  Then he’ll be back to his normal self tomorrow.

It could be something. For even those without kids in sports, we all now know if not treated properly, my son will continue to suffer from headaches, serious lapses in memory, loss of coordination, delayed cognitive responses, irritability and possibly depression.  None of these are listed in his baby book in my hopes and dreams for my child.

I know she’s going to tell me he can’t play hockey for a while. That will be the easiest news to contemplate – for me at least. But what else does that computer screen divulge to her? What else does that innocuous little otoscope tell her?

I am making mental notes to Coach:

Best case scenario is that he’ll be back on the ice after a week’s rest from all physical activity.  Maybe even less, if he wakes up tomorrow morning entirely asymptomatic.  For you, this impacts a small part of your hockey season.  For us, well, the impact is far greater. Thanks for being so understanding.  Oh never mind this, I’ll let my husband tell him all this!

I am making mental notes to Teacher

No, he didn’t do his homework. No, he didn’t forget.  No, the dog didn’t eat it.  I forbid him to do it.  Yes, I get it, he’ll fall behind. Yes, I know, dreadful sport, this hockey.

I am making mental notes to Son

Trust us.
I know what you’re thinking, but we know what we’re doing.  You still have December, January and all the playoffs to play and it’s my job, among a few others, to protect your brain cells.  Think of all the other shit you’ll soon be doing (are doing?) that will kill those precious cells. 

I am making mental notes to Self
Why did I not take him to see the doctor yesterday? Why did that pile of dirty laundry take precedence? Was my Inbox really more important that my son’s temporal lobe? Keep breathing. 

The doctor determines no scan is required. For now. So while in terms of hockey, it was a direct hit, in terms of a concussion, it was a near miss.

Exhale.

About Astra
Ottawa mom of 3 poking fun at myself, motherhood, and minor hockey! I am steering through life dodging stinky hockey gear and empty wine bottles.
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