When my son was five years old, we enrolled him in skating classes to prepare him for his first hockey season.
My husband and I worried it was too soon to get him started. Yet, within minutes of his first lesson, we feared we had already doomed him to mediocrity.
Other boys we recognized were skating circles around him and had clearly been on skates since they'd learned to walk. Our son gamely held on to the boards as he eased himself around the rink.
My husband had played several sports growing up and had later become a sportscaster. He had seen too many boys pushed too hard by deluded dads and never wanted that for his own son. But, he looked stricken at that moment, fearing he'd waited too long to introduce our little boy to the iconic pastime on ice.
When the lesson ended we gingerly approached our son, expecting to find him fighting tears of embarrassment. Instead, I'll never forget what he said.
"Did you guys see how fast I was going?"
After what felt like minutes of stunned silence, one of us stammered, "did it feel fast?"
"I was super fast!" he said.
For the second time that day, we felt like stupid parents.
My son is now 17 and has never taken a year off from the game. It's been an important part of his life.
He played as a tyke on outdoor rinks in Manitoba where officials won't call off the game until the temperature fell below minus 35.
Even after spilling hot tears over cold feet, he always wanted to return to that rink.
That includes the time when I embarrassed us both when I helped him dress in his hockey gear at home and delivered him to the rink with shin guards over his hockey socks!
His years in hockey have framed many of our family memories. From the early thrill over teams made, to the later heartbreak over teams not made.
From believing he would love contact hockey, to accepting after two unhappy years, that he didn't; opting to play in a non-contact league and having fun again.
Friendships were made and strained. Not just for the kids, but for us parents too.
The crowds have dwindled over the years. From screaming, overly-enthusiastic parents believing their young sons were destined for "the show" to only a few of us mom's scattered in the stands who still show up for ever-later ice times on Sunday nights to watch our now-much-older sons play.
The boys drive themselves to the rink these days. The past few years my husband has been on the bench. He concedes he actually stopped coaching a long time ago. He's there mainly to open the gate, to chuckle at the "chirps" the boys yell at each other and to friends on other teams, and to soak in the last moments of these young sons who are now in fact young men.
This year, their team has made it to the championship game of their division. This will be my son's last game. University beckons in the fall. When he plays again, it will be in a men's beer league somewhere where there will be women in the stands, but not the moms.
I will miss it very much. It's not just a chapter of his life that’s closing. But, a chapter of mine too.
I still love to watch my son play hockey, and most of all I love to watch him skate. Even from far across the arena I can pick out his stride. He's become a fast and powerful skater. But for me there's still something in his movements that reminds me of that little boy who was thrilled so long ago at going so fast. What we didn't realize then was the only thing going faster, was time.