Hockey Dad Hangover

My son recently finished another season of hockey. This year he was on one of the traveling Bantam B-teams of the Sioux Falls Flyers.  For those that don’t know hockey, the “Bantam” means that he’s playing with a team of 13 and 14 year olds. Some of his teammates he’s played with since he was six years old (they were called Atoms back then).

When your child plays hockey you come to learn that hockey is more than rules of the game, but also embracing hockey culture and accepting every member of that team and their parents as part of your hockey family. For nearly a decade, the family has had a five month ritual where three evenings or mornings a week are dedicated to taking sons and daughters to practice. Weekends are for traveling to in-state or out-of-state hockey games and spending your nights in a Best Western. This is not only a significant time commitment for the young hockey player, but also the player’s parents. Some parents love hockey more than others but all of us love our own kids equally.

I never once told my son he had to play hockey. My only requirements were that he did an activity that: got him off the couch; gave him exercise; had him working with others as a team; and most importantly something he would remain committed to for the season. Despite not being the most passionate or best hockey player on the ice, rarely did I hear my son complain on those days I knew he would rather be home. Given that I quit my second grade baseball team mid-season and never looked back, I can’t help but think this young man is already on track to be a better person than I was when I was his age.

So here we are at the end of the hockey season. I haven’t written much on my blog posts nor done much of anything else of substance these past couple weeks. This is my annual ritual of just letting my body adjust to having more time to do my own thing. This is also the period of time I also get to watch what new passions my son discovers with his own spare time. In the past month, he’s talked about becoming part of his high school’s show choir, getting a summer job, and taking his first steps to becoming an aviation pilot.

As another summer approaches, my son will decide once again whether he wants to try out for next year’s travel hockey team. He’s currently thinking of skipping the travel team next year and playing instead in the less demanding and less time consuming Recreational City League.  While we would no longer would be part of the travel team family, it still remains an opportunity for his mother and me to see our son on the ice for another season or two.

Make no mistake though, there will be a time when my son will decide he is no longer a hockey player.  Inevitably, there will also come a time when I will no longer be called a hockey dad. I’m OK with this. All I really need from my son is for him to call me Dad as he follows his own passions and dreams wherever they lead him.

Age Allows Fantasy to Become Reality

It’s no secret that I am a science fiction fan. When dating my wife, one of our first kisses was from me becoming overjoyed after I found out she stayed up too late the previous night watching a “dumb movie” on the SciFi channel. In my book, a girl willing to lose some sleep watching science fiction on TV was a girl worth dating.

One thing that has always made me uncomfortable with science fiction is when science doesn’t support what’s happening in the story. So for instance, in Star Trek I could always buy-off on the science behind the crew’s planet-to-ship handheld communicators and even the ships transporter (which turns matter into energy and then energy back into matter).  But the concept that humankind in a few centuries could build a ship that traveled faster than the speed of light is pure fantasy. Fantasy doesn’t make a show less enjoyable to watch but it’s not science nor grounded in reality.

When I was eleven years old, there was a television show called Salvage 1 starring Andy Griffith. The premise of the show was focused on a salvage man’s dream to build a rocket, go to the moon, and bring back to Earth the old Apollo mission “junk” for resale. While his character’s use of a semi-truck cement mixer for the capsule or that a salvage company had the resources to build and launch a rocket seemed far-fetched…I could buy off on it.

Although Salvage 1 barely lasted more than a season, the show fed into my desire to see companies outside of NASA being able to launch their own rockets. Even as a child of the 1970’s, I saw no reason why private citizens couldn’t be capable of space travel. However, the fantasy in the show was a big distraction for me.

The show ridiculously showed Salvage 1’s rocket, the Vulture, having the ability to land on its own feet and then be reused over and over. The science and technology I knew at the time said it was nearly impossible to safely land a rocket on its feet safely to earth.

Then 35 year later in the real world, a man by the name of Elon Musk comes around, builds his own rocket company called SpaceX and safely lands booster rockets to earth. What does he do with the used booster rockets? He salvages them and reuses them for later flights. My fantasy of seeing rockets do this has unexpectedly become my reality.

When what you thought was impossible becomes possible in your lifetime…it humbles you. Moments like these simply gives you hope that maybe, just maybe, you were wrong about other impossibilities in your life.

Failure is in the Eye of the Beholder

I’m late, so you think. I promised you a weekly post this year and I’ve already neglected to provide you last week’s story. Last weekend was a busy traveling hockey weekend for my son and me, but nevertheless you think that’s no excuse for having failed you. The old me would have agreed with you. The new me says, that’s bull.

By my nature, I’m a very task oriented person. I don’t let go until the job is done. Several years ago, I started a 365 Photo Project with the goal of publishing a new photo each day of the year. By March, my joy in taking photographs turned into a miserable experience. With only eight miles between home and work, there just wasn’t enough interesting and inspiring photos to take on my daily commute. The year-long project I had envisioned only lasted for three months.  I still can’t crack a smile when I look at the photos I took during that project. I labeled that year’s resolution a failure and to this day I still feel I owe somebody a couple hundred more photographs.

Let’s not forget though, I started the year by stating that I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions and checklists are great for getting things done that you have to be done, but they have become a distraction to for how best to measure my personal growth as a human being. My intention here is for me to reflect on my week it is not to write one post a week. So, while chauffeuring my son from ice rink to ice rink last week I knew I wasn’t going to be writing any blog posts that week. If I had provided you a post last week despite the stress of having little time to do so, that would have been the real failure here. This isn’t about completing a resolution but finding a better direction in life.

For those though that just can’t let go that this my blog that literally says I’m giving you “Fifty-Two Posts a Year”, please read the fine print. I can skip blogging one week and provide you two posts another week.

Alone Time

My son had a out of town hockey tournament this weekend which resulted in my family leaving me home alone. In the past 48 hours, I’ve been the only human being in my house. My only duty this weekend was to take care of our dog Jasmine and the two cats, Oreo and Maya. What a wonderful gift I received in this opportunity to be alone and to be just me without interruption.

I know some people that can’t stand being alone. There are people that have to constantly have someone around to be content and happy. This has never been me. I can go for several days without seeing another human being before I actually feel lonely. It has nothing to do with me not liking people. I value my time with family and friends very much. Instead, this has to do with the importance of solitude in my life.

Loneliness is marked by a sense of isolation. Loneliness happens when we no longer want to be alone and we desire to be around people. Solitude, on the other hand, can be defined as a “state of being alone without being lonely and can lead to self-awareness”.  Solitude is desirable, a state of being alone where you provide yourself wonderful and sufficient company.

The greatest obstacle to finding solitude most often is not trying to find alone time but the guilt of feeling selfish by not sharing our time with others. In my single days, being alone was easy and admittedly at times lonely. Today though, as a husband and father, I’ve been conditioned by necessity to make sure I’m available when my family needs me to be available. Even this weekend I feel somewhat guilty I’m not watching my son at his hockey game and cheering him on as he attempts another shot at the goal. What kind of father doesn’t show up for his son’s hockey game? It doesn’t matter that others will tell me it’s OK to put myself first from time to time, I still feel I’m losing some points toward being a good parent.

It’s important to remind ourselves that while solitude can bring us joy it doesn’t have to be out of selfish reasons. Solitude allows you to also improve yourself so you can be a better person when you are with others. Sherrie Bourg Carter in Psychology Today gives reasons you should spend more time alone. In her article she lists six benefits of seeking solitude:

  1. Solitude allows you to reboot your brain and unwind.
  2. Solitude helps to improve concentration and increase productivity.
  3. Solitude gives you an opportunity to discover yourself and find your own voice.
  4. Solitude provides time for you to think deeply.
  5. Solitude helps you work through problems more effectively.
  6. Solitude can enhance the quality of your relationships with others.

Despite wanting more time for solitude, the reality is that having a family requires you to divide your time between work, your family, and “me time”.  In most cases, work and family come before my own desires. But you know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way as I understand my time with my wife and son are just as precious. But how do you find solitude on the normal days full of work, family, and being your child’s personal Lyft driver to all their activities?

Most of my mornings waking up as a child were seeing my parents already up and reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee in the other hand. They weren’t seeking an hour of less sleep or necessarily enjoying the sunrise but instead enjoying the solitude before their family reminded them they weren’t alone. For me, I’ve found that most often solitude doesn’t come in periods of hours or days like this past weekend but in minutes. I’ve found that by getting up an hour or half-hour earlier than everyone else in the house…I can have at least a small dose of the solitude I seek to get me through the day. It seems to be working.