Monday, April 15, 2013

Where Victory Hides

At some point we all have to come back down to earth. For our son E, and I imagine the rest of the boys on his hockey team, it will be a slow return. It’s not been a banner season, not in terms of wins anyway, it has however been a season of great victory and this past weekend in Niagara on the Lake proved just how much this group of boys has won.

We are at the end of our regular league season. Our record is 2 wins, 2 ties and a stack of loses. Those are the stats and even though I am only a 2nd year rookie hockey mom and far from educated about the game, I understand those stats aren’t pretty.

Heading to the March Break tournament we were promised three games and that, in all honesty, is all any of us (parents anyway) expected. By the time we hit game four; the semi-final game, the pangs of parental guilt for believing secretly and not so secretly that we would never had made it so far were visible on almost every face. In our defense our team came out of nowhere, playing solid hockey like we hadn’t seen all season; skating, digging, passing, back checking, defending the net and taking away scoring chances (these are all terms I have memorized and will someday understand) Where did this team come from?

They came from playing get-to-know you street hockey and mini-sticks, eating hamburgers and playing video games. They came from a great afternoon of pond hockey against their Coaches and their Dads. This team came from hanging out in the pool and old school road hockey in the hotel parking lot. They came from hours hanging out at the Hockey Loft, competing against one another in targets and time trials and goofing off during the free skate of on-ice practice. You could see they emerged from joining together to change a family’s Christmas and from eating pancakes and bacon after a morning of big show hockey at Ranger’s Nation. They came from great Coaches who were as much a part of the team as the leaders of it.  Those boys who went into the final game came from cheering loud and proud for their hometown Kitchener Rangers and dancing Gangnom style in the dressing room. They brought it all to the ice and you could feel it, their energy, their ‘Team’. They brought it all to the win! They won, and I would be remise if I didn't exclaim it was exhilarating, thrilling and emotional, even more so because of where the win came from.

I’m not going to lie; watching games throughout the season has been painful at times. I cheer and smile and silently think to myself ‘come on guys – when are you going to get it together’ and I am feeling rather small at the moment for failing to see that they were getting it together the whole time, that it simply wasn’t recognizable until it looked like winning.

That may be one of the saddest things about becoming an adult I think; in the land of grown-ups and grown-up jobs the focus is all on the result, on the win, it’s how we measure success. Sure we strive to recognize the efforts along the way but we fail to celebrate them as the other victory.

Play-offs are coming up for our boys, they are going in on a high note riding the wave of victory not only as champions of a recent tournament (which was sweet) but riding a season of auxiliary successes. Whatever the result at the end of the day – every one of those boys has won far more than a championship.

…and isn’t that the point?

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Crayon Leadership

English: crayons of rainbow colorAn interesting awareness that came up during mediation this morning was this “A leader does not control others, their words, thoughts, actions, or deeds. A leader does not demand from others. A leader controls their own words, thoughts, actions and deeds, strives to live by example and allows others the freedom to discover their own potential.”

Then the next thought; how true that statement is of parenthood. We all want to raise great leaders of life and community but how willing are we to turn our parenting role into a true role of leadership to do it?

Thinking about when my children were little I remember spending hours with our green metal lunchbox stuffed full of bright bits of wax crayons and a stack of newsprint colouring books just waiting to be brought to life. “Let’s Colour!” it was a favourite pastime, and we did. We coloured dolphins and soldiers, puppy dogs and Easter Bunnies. We would cram together on a single book; grown-up colouring on one side of the spine, kid colouring on the other. A mini competition of artistic expression where grown-ups always fail because we know puppy dogs are brown, dolphins are grey and Easter Bunnies have pink ears.

There are two types of grown-ups that colour with children. The first type says “That’s beautiful sweetie!” the second type says “Stay in the lines.” There are two types of kids who colour with grown-ups; the type that colours in the lines because you told them to and the type that scribbles all over the page because you didn’t. Eventually both children colour in the lines, one because you told them to the other because they watched you do it. The end results are the same with the exception of the enjoyment level of both parties. It’s not much fun to colour if you are always worried the other person is going to make a mistake and it isn’t much fun to colour if you are always waiting for someone to tell you how you are doing it wrong.

It isn’t easy to control your own words, thoughts, actions and deeds. As a parent it is terrifying to watch your children make mistakes, take risks that can set them back and occasionally fail. Leading by example is hard. Leading from the back is a challenge especially as the kids get older, the stakes get higher and the consequences more dire. Terrifying maybe isn’t the best word, I like petrifying a little better. Being a leader for our children often scares us right into control and robs them of great opportunities to draw their own lines and fill their page with colour.

There is a great saying rattling in our home this week…Mike says “When nothing is going right, go left” it makes me think that perhaps when I’m having the most challenging time with parenting my young adults. Maybe I'm trying to control more than lead.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Family Days and Fat Food Happens

IMAG0298Pictured at left is a bowl of Family Day. I know it looks like an artery clogging heart stopping bowl of gourmet poutine; glorious homemade french fries cut from the finest Yukon gold potatoes the grocery store has to offer, sprinkled with near crispy bits of bacon, sweet golden brown caramelized onions, nuggets of white cheese curd so fresh they squeak between your teeth, warm and salty and blanketed with a luxurious laddlefull of maple bbq beef gravy. (napkins are on the counter)

Looks can be deceiving. Like I said it's a bowl of Family Day.

Our family missed Family Day. Well, we didn't so much miss it, it was more a failure to synchronize. We all knew it was Family Day but the efforts to celebrate caused more tension than harmony. In short we just tried too darn hard and pushed family togetherness right out the window. It is one of the greatest lessons in life and the one I struggle to remember all the time; Let it be, what's meant to be.

Meant to be is what happened yesterday on the way home from a disappointing loss at the rink. Family harmony came to life in the back seat, an effort to lighten the mood became a game plan for what I coined Guilt Free Saturday (an effort to justify the ridiculous 'what's for dinner' menu my kids were dreaming up).

The plan; an epic dinner to be enjoyed tv-side with a feature NHL game (Pittsburg vs. can't make this stuff up)
What was on the epic dinner menu? Not vegetables. Maple bacon BBQ cheddar burgers sandwiched on bakery rolls and served with a side of gourmet poutine. Just reading it makes your arteries clog and your pulse race, internal conflict rivaled only by my natural instinct to  not fuel my body with poison vs. my desire to dive right into a day of indulgence and family fun. Indulgence won.

A quick stop at the grocery store for essential ingredients not usually on hand, namely burgers, buns, cheese curds, and bacon.  We arrived home with smiles and comradery. In the kitchen E helped cut and blanche potatoes, KJ precision fried the bacon and I sliced and diced onions, tomatoes, and cheese. Lula, whose favourite room is not the kitchen, kept the dog distracted from the aromas wafting from it. Mike, enjoyed an indulgence of his own, a nap...and we let him, because well.... we don't let him very often and what better way to say "we love you Dad." than to let the man rest up before his gourmet meal.

I set up a burger grilling station for E and he worked that George Forman like a grill master, cooking each burger to perfection then smothering them lovingly with Maple BBQ sauce to bathe in while they rested in the oven. KJ cooked a golden roux for the gravy and stirred the gently caramelizing onions. I soaked it all in, the cooperation, the intensity of heart to task, the verbal jousting, the 'family' that filled the air.

Anyone who tries to portray that their family is a living breathing cocoon of love, peace and togetherness is probably delusional and quite likely thinks you are an idiot. Families aren't, they are places where people learn to debate and speak their minds, individuate themselves and become independent. Families squabble and slam doors, they cry and disagree, they push each other to be better and call one another out when they are being less than they are capable of. Homes are places where people learn to trust and take chances, get comfortable with who they are and who they want to become. Families are the thing that catch and comfort you when things don't go how you thought they would and you need a soft place to heal.

The cocoon of love peace and togetherness is always there, rippling just beneath the surface of the chaos. It doesn't surface because you will it, it surfaces when you won't it. When you simply let it be.
Guilt Free Saturday, I would love to have them every week. Fortunately for my arteries and my waistline a family doesn't readily support the idea.

This morning I am extremely grateful that I opted out of the burger stopped at a single serving of poutine and that the dog is up for a good long walk. I am also grateful that life sends you the lessons you need, when you need them the most.