Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hockey Mom...maybe

Matthew's gross motor skills have always been a little on the slow side; we noticed this from the time he was a baby.  Shortly after he was born, the doctor doing his six week check-up said that there was really only one critical milestone that a baby needed to reach in the first year: that he be sitting independently by the age of eight months. I'm sure she meant to reassure this anxious and hyper vigilant new mother that everything was ok - after all, she said, he had only one milestone to meet in his whole first year.  Unfortunately for this mother, that precious little guy didn't make his milestone.  He didn't sit independently until he was about nine months old.  His achievement-raised, goal-oriented, obsessive-mother-who-had-waited-so-long-for-this-child went into over-drive by the time he was 7.5 months old and showing no signs of meeting that one goal.  Matthew went back to the doctor and then immediately to a pediatric neurologist to check out his brain function...who, incidentally, said that Matthew was perfectly fine besides having somewhat low muscle tone - Matthew was even advanced for his young age, according to the neurologist, who noted that Matthew had discovered his genitals about two or three months earlier than most children (yeah, that's the kind of milestone a proud parent wants to write home about!).  But onwards we went.  Matthew and I went through almost a year's worth of weekly home visits by an infant development specialist/physical therapist, with and for whom the two of us laboured as we worked as his gross motor abilities and muscle tone.  What for, I'm not entirely sure in hindsight, given that Matthew was 21.5 months old before he took his first independent steps - older than any other healthy, able-bodied child I've ever known.

Though he's come a long way since then, I'd still say that gross motor skills are not his forte.

Evidence:  Matthew's first "World 3-on-3" hockey experience last Thursday.

We arrived at the rink at 8:00, and I had my first experience as a hockey mom helping her kid dress in all of the requisite paraphernalia.  And yikes, there's a lot of stuff - I was definitely out of my comfort zone, awkwardly manhandling the flaps and pads and velcro and tape and zippers.

Nonetheless, I was proud of my little gaffer (and of myself, mostly!) when he finally stood, ready to get onto the ice, weighted down by an additional ten pounds of clothing.  Given how much he did not enjoy skating lessons over the past few months, I think the only reason he was ok going to his first hockey session that morning was because he was so excited about wearing a jock/cup to protect his privates; he was truly hoping that someone would try to inflict some damage there, just so he could show how well protected he was!  Six years after that neurologist appointment and still he's fascinated by his private parts!

The prerequisite for being allowed to register for 3-on-3 hockey was that the player knows how to get up on his skates from the falling down position (Matthew's a pro in this particular skill) and that he be able to 'walk' on his skates.  Imagine my surprise (and horror) then, when the other 17 kids got onto the ice before Matthew and, like, power skated towards centre ice.  Really, I mean it was shocking to see these pint sized six-year-olds barely touch the ice with skates that seemed to be hydroplaning with the speed they achieved; they truly looked like miniature NHL players: stopping on a dime; jumping over mini pylons (and landing on their feet!); turning mid-skate and traveling backwards; going from 0-100 in five seconds flat.  It was unbelievable.  I cringed, preparing for what was to come. Sure enough, Matthew was the last on the ice and, frankly, that slow and stumbling entry set the tone for the whole hour.  He was the worst and the slowest skater, by about a thousand times, and, in contrast to many of the others, who were clearly comfortable with puck, stick and the rules of the game, he had never skated with any of these accoutrements.  There were seven coaches on the ice to work with the kids and one of them was pretty much devoted to Matthew - talk about great one-on-one attention, but I'm not sure that this is the kind one wants!

I sat in the bleachers with my head in my hands, barely able to watch - not because it bothered me that he wasn't as good a skater, but because the contrast between his abilities and those of the other kids was so stark that I was sure he'd notice and suffer some form of humiliation as a result of it.  I thought my heart would break in anticipation of his awareness.

I needn't have worried.  I can still hardly believe it, but Matthew seemed utterly oblivious to the vastly superior abilities of the other kids, to the fact that they were racing by him as if he were standing still (which he sometimes was), to his need for all of the one-on-one attention from the coaches.  He wasn't the least perturbed by his inability to do most of the drills, and seemed entirely unbothered by the puck sliding by him into the net when he was on goalie watch...it wouldn't have surprised me had he cheered for the player who scored.  I don't know if this is something to be glad about or worried about.  I know he worked hard for the whole hour and that his skating did, in fact, improve somewhat from beginning to end of the session, and I was very proud of him for sticking to it.  He was sweaty from working so hard, and surprisingly didn't even complain about how much he had to work, so I guess I'll keep him taking him to hockey (unless the coaches kick him out).  He came home professing that the best part of the hour was at the end - when freezies were handed out in the change room. Indeed, he moaned with delight over these treats...they'll probably be the thing that will keep my sweet-toothed boy going back to play hockey!

The most amazing part of all to me was Matthew's response to Geoff's dinnertime question about how hockey had gone that morning.  Matthew's answer?  "You should have seen me dad - I was flying like I had wings on - I was awesome - I bet pretty soon I'm going to be skating faster than any of my coaches."  Huh??  Was I watching the wrong kid the whole hour??  I was stunned.  But, well, in keeping with the life philosophy that I acquired from watching the movie "Lars and the Real Girl" a few years ago, I'll let him live unchallenged with his delusion and work it out himself.  After all, who am I to say that it won't happen...some day...maybe.  For now, I guess I'll experience being a hockey mom for a little while longer.

* Thanks for the comment, Sheldon - I hope he sticks with it, too, at least for a while.  After the second practice (on the weekend), one of his coaches approached us in the change room and asked if we'd be ok with a coach working with him one-on-one for the first half of the ice time.  "Like, yes, please!!!!" we responded.  Duh. The coaches are awesome with him, and he's already showing signs of increased confidence (after the second practice, he actually suggested that he was faster than the others in his class...hmmmm).  A month or two ago, we actually looked into the possibility of one-on-one lessons for him, just to help boost his skills a little, but we couldn't find anyone to do it...until now, when it was volunteered!
* Thanks Shannon - in response to your question, Matthew rides a two-wheeler with training wheels.  Last summer and this spring (as recently as two hours ago over dinner!), I've brought up the notion of taking the training wheels off of his bike and his response is usually something like:  "who cares Mom - I'll just keep riding with the training wheels."  He seems very non-competitive (ok with me) and remarkably uncaring about what others think of him (also ok with me, but it's a bit odd at times).  I'd love to get the training wheels off to help him with balance and confidence (thinking about skating, etc), but don't want to force the issue...willing to wait until he's interested, I guess.  Any suggestions????


  1. He looks great in still pictures :)...

    Hopefully he continues to enjoy playing hockey. Great story.

  2. Ruth ,

    love this post!

    I am so trilled at how great he feels he is on the ice that is what really matters.

    I played ringette ( sp? ) when I was little I was a pretty strong player , but was the one cheering for the other team when I was in the nets , as wining really did not matter to me , so I am with Matthew on this one.


    Does Matthew ride a bike ? I work in child development and this year me and some parents have been working on a great way to help kids who where late to two wheelers figure it out. It has worked wonders. Let me know , very fun and easy