Heads up, sports dad! My kid doesn’t take this too seriously. And I support him.

I’ve written before about my sons and their relationship with the sport of ice hockey.

To be quick, the relationship is in its infancy. The guys (now 5 and 7) started in an introductory program last winter. My youngest announced his retirement from the game in February, while the big dude continues to push forward. It’s just the latest in this wacky series of events as a father during which I’m basically looking around me, making sure all the other dads are smiling as hard as I am.

Here’s the thing, though. In hockey world, for the most part, these dads ain’t smiling. At least not like I am–so thrilled when my gigantic skater-dude actually approaches the puck, or remembers to skate by me without coming to a full stop to wave at me through the glass. (Shit, I smile even bigger when he does stop to wave; I’ve got to be better at this.)

Now this isn’t a “Shame on hard-o sports dad” post. Honestly, it’s not. Because, quite frankly, I get that approach, too. I can’t relate to it, and I certainly don’t espouse it. But I see it. I understand what takes them to that place.

What I’m hoping is that hard-o hockey dad doesn’t mind me and my son in the mix. Because we’re having a blast, learning about ourselves, each other, making new friends and even picking up some sweet inside jokes together.

What makes this adjustment even more difficult for the families around us, I suspect, is the way my big guy profiles.

1. He is enormous when he’s on skates and in equipment.
2. He is the only child of color in his entire hockey program.

What I’m saying is that, when we walk into the room, there are huge expectations foisted on us from the jump. I sure as hell can feel it.

Add these factors to his auditory processing difficulties (it can be literally painful for him to try to focus on one sound when there are too many auditory stimuli in the room), and it’s safe to say that other parents don’t know what to make of us.

For them, I’d say this: Stand next to me next week, when he pops off the ice and starts chatting about how proud he is of himself. Listen to him articulate the several goals he sets for himself and the way he evaluates his success.

Week 1, his goal was met. “Daddy, I didn’t fall once.”

Week 2, he nailed it again. “I got the puck! I held it and skated with it. I didn’t score. Not yet. But I did it.”

Who knows what next week will be. I just can’t wait for him to tell me, in his calm and cool drawl–elegant in its complex innocence.

In the meantime, hard-o sports dad, I’m going to cheer pretty hard for your kid, too. Because he’s really good. Kid skates effortlessly, glides around obstacles like nobody’s business, and I love the way he finishes at the net.

Someday, he might trust Milo to dish him a pass near the goal. Maybe not.

Truth be told, Milo could not care less.

And his dad is right there with him.

Kyle Belanger

Written by: Kyle Belanger

Proud father to three children (in order: one deceased, one adopted and one biological), Kyle is constantly navigating the worlds between actively grieving and openly gloating. Learn more about Kyle here.

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