The director of the camp was greeting families as they walked in. I brought Drew over to the sign in table, and handed over his paperwork. The director handed Drew a summer camp hockey jersey and asked, "Does he have all his equipment?" I smiled and said, " Of course!" He said, "Okay, you are in locker room #2." With my tantruming 2 year old in tow, we made our way over to the locker room.
Instead of an inspirational quote on the door of locker room #2, it should have said," Welcome to your crash course in being a hockey mom!"
Opening the door, I fully expected to see a group of kids about Drew's age (4 years old) getting ready with camp counselors. Oh no, what I see instead is a group of boys probably ranging in ages 6-9 dressed in full hockey gear. And I mean fully hockey gear! My stomach dropped to the floor and I could feel my eyes grow big with panic. Drew did not have the hockey equipment nor was he prepared to play with these big kids. Just at this moment of an epic mom fail, Nolan proceeds to start screaming "Ee I Ee I O, Momma! Now!" I quickly pull out my Iphone, hit youtube and in lightening fast speed search for Old McDonald and practically throw my phone at Nolan. He happily sits on the bench singing along, while Drew and I try to figure out our next move. Watching the other kids pull on their equipment, I help Drew get dressed in his skating clothes which consist of lined wind pants, a Sabers shirt, and fleece jacket. I look around for the coach that was supposedly going to help me lace up Drew's skates, because of course I have no idea how to do that! I watch as other moms and dads expertly put on shin guards, helmets, shoulder pads and elbow pads onto their kids. Thankfully, Drew seems unphased and wants to get onto the ice. Since it seems like no one in the room is going to offer help and there isn't a coach in sight, I drag the boys back out to the lobby to find the director.
I find him and say, " I must have missed something when I signed Drew up because it was not made clear to me what you meant by equipment. He doesn't have any of the gear the other boys are wearing." The director must have seen the panic in my eyes, because he says, "No worries, you can borrow gear from the arena. Head over to the main counter." However, instead of coming over to help, he walks away. A very cranky woman greets me and says, "Dropping lunch? I was supposed to leave 5 minutes ago!" I hand over Drew's lunch and explain to her that I need to borrow equipment. She roles her eyes, sighs, walks over to the rental counter, and proceeds to slam down buckets of gloves, shin guards and elbow pads. I stand there looking at the buckets, having no clue what to do! Again, epic mom fail. I repeat to myself several times, " Kara, you are a very smart person. You can figure this out." But somehow the buckets of equipment seem more daunting than interviewing for a new job! I see the director walk by and I snag him (AGAIN!) to ask for help. Thankfully, he pulls out everything Drew needs and hands them over.
So back to the locker room we go. As we enter the locker room again, there are even more kids in there getting ready and still no coach. It is getting close to ice time and I am praying someone comes in to help. I open the door and stick my head out and I see a coach coming down the hall. As he enters the locker room, he looks at Drew and says, " Hey bud! You ready! Let's go!" Drew stands up and gets ready to go, but I stop him and say, "Wait, his skates aren't tied, and his helmet is not on." This poor college kid must think I am nuts, but has the patience of a saint. He quickly ties Drew's skates, readjusts his helmet and shin guards, and helps him put on his jersey. At this point, I am a bundle of nerves, Nolan is singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, and Drew is slowly walking to the ice. On the way, another coach greets us. I bombard her with another round of questions, " Are you sure this is appropriate for him? He is not a really strong skater. All the other kids seem so experienced. Are you sure he's going to be ok?" Coach Ann calms my nerves by saying," Oh yeah! He is fine! We are going to have so much fun! He'll be with the big kids in the beginning but then we'll break into stations and he'll be with me. I have taught Learn to Skate so I can help him with his basic skills." She goes on to make jokes with Drew and before I know it, she's leading Drew away from me.
Nolan and I are following Drew and his coach into the hockey rink and players' bench. I watch as Coach Ann takes Drew's hand and helps him onto the ice. Drew slightly struggles with holding his hockey stick and moving forward on the ice. Coach Ann skates away. I think," Oh god. Here it comes. Drew is going to cry. He is going to fall." I feel myself cringing. But Drew doesn't! He slowly makes his way to the center circle and very slowly joins the big kids in the warm up stretching and exercises.
Again, I stand there thinking, "Oh god. He's going to be looking for me. He is going to get lost. He is going to cry." But Drew doesn't! Nolan and I inch our way out of the arena. We stop, turn around and watch Drew. I see Drew lay down on his back, lift one leg in the air, and follow along with the directions from the coach. Drew keeps trying. We stay about five more minutes. My heart is thumping in my chest and I feel tears spring to my eyes.
My baby is doing it! He is hanging with the big boys! I am absolutely floored. I realize that as Drew walked onto the ice, he didn't even turn around to say good- bye to me. He just joined the others. I called my husband and told him the program is so not appropriate for Drew and I fully expect a phone call from Coach Ann saying Drew needs me. My husband asks, " Was Drew trying? Was he smiling? Was he skating?" I answered yes to all of his questions, but still not completely convince Drew was going to make it the whole 4 hours at camp.
Well, I never got that phone call.
When Nolan and I went back to get Drew, he was eating lunch with his friends and was so happy! Coach Ann said he did fantastic and really did a great job. Drew gushed about playing the cone and car game, about stretching, and about making a goal. He even went on to say, "I didn't miss Nolan at all! I didn't miss you! I didn't miss Daddy! I was brave and didn't even cry! And I didn't fall in the ice!" Drew was over the moon with his camp experience and could not stop smiling.
I have never been more proud of Drew than this very moment. My heart was literally bursting with pride! All the panic and apprehension I had felt before dissipated as we walked to the car. Together, Drew and I conquered another milestone in his growing up. I fought every fiber in me to not go back into the hockey rink and bring Drew home, while Drew overcame his worry about falling through the ice. My little boy is growing up!
When Drew, Nolan and I go back to camp tomorrow, you can be assured that Drew will be equipped with all the needed hockey gear. (I went right to the hockey store and bought him everything he needed.) I had the owner show me how to put the equipment on and off of Drew and in what correct order. Yes, a little neurotic, but I want to be totally prepared for tomorrow.
Drew showed me he could handle a new situation on his own, and gave me the first taste of what it means to have your child "leave the nest." So here's to joining a league of Hockey Mom's where I plan to burst with pride and cheer on every pass, every goal, and every play that Drew either does or does not make. That would not be an epic mom fail!