Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tales out of the Rink

It’s in the air.  Do you feel it?

Hockey season.

I think I’m a dying breed.  I am a mom and I love hockey.

I am so tired of hearing parents say “Oh.  My kid is NOT playing hockey”. 

Um.. did I miss a memo?  Since when is playing hockey so… un-chic?

From where I sit (really cold wooden bleachers, Tim’s in hand, Small town rink, AB) hockey has been great to our family. 

We spend weekends together, albeit mostly spent in the van on the way to practice or games, talking about life, listening to music, and relishing in having all five bodies in one place for longer than 5 minutes. 

As a family we take our spots to watch the game.  My younger kids play with other little brothers and sisters, my husband takes his place on the bench as coach, and I sit with the other parents in the crowd as we collectively cheer on our little stars.

It’s a way to get out of the house in the frigid Canadian winter, a time when staying inside seems far more preferably to scraping the windshield, warming up the car, loading the kids stuffed in snowsuits, and heading out in white-out conditions on the way to the rink. 

Where little boys everywhere dream of being Sidney Crosby, scoring the golden goal and bringing Canadians to their feet, and little girls watched Hayley Wickenheiser skate on the Olympic ice with a Canadian flag draped around her shoulders.

I don’t know a lot about the semantics of the game.  In fact, my seven year old just taught me what an offside is. (I can almost see my dad cringing at that comment.  Years spent being a hockey little sister, a hockey girlfriend, a hockey wife, and now a hockey mom and I JUST figured it out!)

But here’s what I do know.

Hockey parents are crazy.  But if you’ve even been to a cheer competition, baseball game, dance recital or spelling bee you can attest to the fact that parents are, in general, just crazy.  There are always going to be those parents that are a special breed of crazy, but rest assured, they will show up everywhere.

I mean, we can all agree that on the whole, adults ruin everything. 

It’s not the kids calling out coaches, fighting with other parents, and deciding the politics behind the game.  That’s on us.

And in every single sport I have had a child be a part of; those same fatal parental flaws are evident.

Hockey is a tough, physical sport.  But the physicality of it teaches a certain amount of body awareness unparalleled in other sports.  The agility and strength my seven year old has from 3 years spent on skates is unreal.  Watching him try other sports like skiing and baseball and lacrosse only reaffirmed my suspicions.  The athleticism derived from hockey is transposable in more ways than I ever imagined.  Our kids learn to be aware of their strength, aware of their bodies, and comfortable with the power innate in themselves. 

And tough.  Really, really tough.

These kids work hard.  They give their all over to a game that gives right back.

Hockey is not a sport for the young only.  I know a guy who is well into his 70’s and still plays pick-up hockey once a week.  My husband, who played his whole life, still makes the yearly trek to play for our province in the RCMP Western Championship tournament. 

Hockey is more than just a childhood pastime.  It gets in your blood.

It’s the dents in my garage door, the paint missing on my basement walls, it’s the sound of Hockey Night in Canada as my son settles in to watch his heroes. 

It’s the milk jugs hanging from the net on the driveway, the mini-sticks in every room, and the terrible smell coming from my son’s hockey bag. 

It’s the early morning practices, it’s the parents I’ve become close with, it’s the ability to watch dreams on display that make this game what it is.

As a mom watching her little guy in his first year, with a jersey so big it’s getting caught on the top of his skates, skating his hardest in the wrong direction, falling down and losing his stick, then a glove, then getting stuck on his back until his little buddies skate over and help him up, it’s about so much more than just putting a puck in a net.

Now that he’s older and getting mad at himself for missing a shot, or making an error resulting in a goal for the other team, it’s about controlling his emotions and getting back out there. 

Working hard even when he’s down by more than he knows can be made up. 

It’s a game that teaches him about getting back up, trying his hardest, and looking to his teammates for help when he’s down. 

But always, always, getting back up.

That’s why I love this sport and why I’m so confused when parents scoff when I say I’m a proud hockey mom.

Because, hockey is a giant metaphor for life.

You win some, you lose some, and in the end it’s about your teammates and the memories.

With a side order of rink fries, Tim Horton’s and a cowbell.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

So You Married a Police Officer.......

Someone once asked me to write my advice on a successful police marriage for new wives just about to welcome the badge into their marriage.

Really.. me? I suppose I can try, but in the spirit of transparency,  I’m a rookie. 

I’m only 8 years in… so I suppose my advice is really only valid for the first 8 years, ok?

The nights spent alone, and the running of the kids to activities by yourself sucks.. no doubt. 

But that doesn’t appear to be the killer of police marriage by any means.  It’s your ability to communicate or not, that squashes police marriages like mosquitos.

In my experience as a police wife, I can tell you that it needs to be you that they turn to on the hard days. 

And the fun and exciting days too, but really, especially, the hard days. 

Of course talking shop with the guys in the dressing room after hockey, hitting the golf course with his unit, or yet another potluck with the whole detachment family is a form of therapy in itself, but for the long term health of your marriage, you need to lean on each other.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no debriefing, I rarely know any details of what he’s working on, but I do know what he’s feeling. 

And no, he’s certainly not a sensitive and effluent communicator.  He’s actually a man of very few words.  There’s no way he’s going to walk in the door and exclaim that “I need to talk to you about my feelings”. 

While we are making dinner, or going for a walk, or having a nightcap (or two!!) after we put the kids to bed, we just hang out.  It’s amazing what just hanging out can do for a marriage.  Sometimes we talk about important issues to us, most of the time I fill him in on what’s important in my life, and then he laughs at me and tells me to care less about CW shows and characters in books that are fictional.

It’s no secret that this career pulls couples apart physically.  There is a LOT of time spent at work, catching up at the office on off hours, on course in another province, overtime shifts, call outs for emergencies, and the BlackBerrys.  Yes, the bbm’s, the email checking, the generally being attached to one another that happens even at home.

So hanging out, just the two of us, talking but not REALLY talking about our emotions, seems pretty important. 

Benign, but important.

Because the cancer that seems to eat at police marriages is the time spent apart combined with the time spent NOT communicating.  I’ve never claimed to be a math wizard but I think that’s a dangerous equation.

I don’t think any other profession is different in that aspect, I think where this profession seems to have inherent problems is that the crap our significant others deal with on a daily basis are life changing.

 And, occasionally, they have to deal with things that are awful.  Things you cannot erase from your mind.  Things that alter the way they see people and situations forever.

An accountant does not suffer the risks of waking up in the middle of the night agonizing over a tax return.. of this I am certain.

While we love them for knowing ridiculous trivia and being the worst dancer ever, these totally normal human beings have to walk into situations out of a horror novel, document it, interview purely evil people, and have to ensure emotions don’t get in the way. 

But they also have to find that ON switch for emotions when they come home at night (or morning, or the next afternoon…) because their daughter might run to them with an absolutely abstract picture and need them to guess what it is.

I mean, it’s gotta be tough.

Some days it’s harder than others.

Sure, there’s the fun stuff.  Brief snippets of the glamorous life Hollywood thinks they do. 

The car chase, the drug bust, the apprehending of the criminal.  The loud sirens, the blue and red lights.

And the gun.  People are fascinated with the gun.  Have you drawn it? Have you shot anyone? Can I hold it?

Then there’s the reality.

Long shifts, short staffed, missed holidays, half eaten supper that’s going to have to wait.  Phone calls, quick exits, coffee.  Lots and lots of coffee.  And paperwork too.  Don’t forget the paperwork.

And, of course, a work family that can rival your own for both the love and dysfunction that come with the territory.  

But then there are the bad days. 

As a wife you don’t wear the badge but you are on the front lines of officer survival. 

Because, on those hard days.. you’re it.

It’s the files that are the ugliest.  It’s the very worst of the worst.  It’s the next of kins that hit too close to home.

You know enough to know it’s been a bad day, but no more.  It’s palpable when they finally make it home.  There’s heaviness in the air that sits, stealing the oxygen out of the room.  It’s on their faces, in how they move around.  The weight of ten thousand tonnes stacked on their shoulders. 

But you’re just a wife.  You have no training, no guide book telling you the best or the very worst thing to say.  So you feel, and you talk, and you try your best to be a mind reader, a psychologist, a soft spot to fall, a sounding board, a place of refuge, a bartender.

You find your way through the darkness.  Stumbling occasionally, until that moment when you suddenly feel his hand firmly grab yours and the darkness lifts.

The hard days are the days no one prepares you for. 

How to be a partner in those moments when the dark side of humanity just seem like too much. 

Thankfully they come few and far between but it’s in those moments that your police marriage feels the weight of the badge the most.

But there is a way to survive the weight, and despite the really long winded answer to a question posed to me, you can skip all the above and just read this: