In the spring of 2015, Jacob had his first tryouts for ice hockey. Up until now, he had done some drills but hasn't ever played an actual hockey game.
Ry took him to the tryout. He called me 30 minutes after it started and said it was bad. Really bad.
“Should I pull him off the ice?” he asked.
I told him it was his call. In the end, he let him continue the tryout for another hour.
The other kids would glide from one end of the rink to the other, while Jacob was busy getting up after falling for the fifth time. All the other kids were waiting for him to finish his lap. Every single time.
He was the worst kid out there.
We figured his hockey career would be over before it even started. We thought he’d get off the ice bummed, then we’d drag his gently used equipment to Play it Again Sports and hope to recover some money. I expected him to come home shattered.
My heart hurt for him.
We weren’t prepared for Jacob’s reaction when he skated off the ice and through the heavy gate.
“Daddy, did you SEE me? I was AWESOME!!”
Was this just like the American Idol contestants who’s overly nice and potentially tone-deaf parents told them little Connie Crooner was a talented superstar and she should keep singing?
Should we tell him he sucked? Should we let him keep trying? Should we put him back in lessons to work on getting better?
“Um….ya…..good work out there buddy!” seemed like something a good parent would say.
He loved it and wanted to keep going.
During the first few games of the season, it was painful and horrible to watch as a parent. As I sat shivering with my butt on the cold metal benches, I’d cringe every time he'd go after the puck.
If he was coordinated enough to actually make contact with the puck, he’d lose his balance and fall over. Knocking kids down on both teams, ungracefully interrupting what could have been a great play for his teammates. I had to keep reminding myself - he's 6, what do you expect?
My face burned with embarrassment for him and myself. Sitting in the stands with all the other parents of amazing and talented hockey players I wanted to personally apologize to them all for Jacob’s playing…or, er…lack thereof.
He’d sometimes tell us about some of the other kids that told him he sucked. I asked him how that made him feel, he said it made him feel angry. More heart pains.
Jacob kept going. We taxied him to practice three times a week some weeks. In every practice, he gave it his all. He pushed himself to his limits every time his wobbly ankles hit the ice.
He never whined either. Even after an hour of drills, he’d skate his huge heart out.
Coming off the ice drenched with sweat, dripping from his smelly helmet he ALWAYS said he had fun.
During one game in the late spring of 2015, we looked at him in awe – he was actually…good. How did that happen? He even had an assist! We prayed for a goal but were happy with an assist. Coach gave him the actual puck he got the assist with. He slept with the puck that night.
Fast forward 6 months.
After practicing once or twice a week for 6 months, and every waking hour all summer in the driveway with the net he bought with his own money—he improved.
I’m grateful to his coaches – who worked with him and encouraged him.
Then he threw us a curveball.
"Mom and Dad, I want to play goalie."
Me, "What? Just stick with what you’re doing—you’re good at it!"
He wore us down. He told me his way of getting what he wants is to keep asking - It worked.
The Coach said if he wanted to give it a whirl, he should.
Today, he tried out being a goalie for the first time. I was hesitant. And not just because goalie equipment is damn expensive, and didn’t we just buy hockey equipment?
See, the goalie can either get all the glory for a shutout or lose the game. I couldn’t bear my son being the cause for losing a game. Couldn’t I just enjoy him being good for a while? Why did we have to change?
Couldn't he just blend in with everyone else and play safe?
He tried it out for 90 straight minutes of scrimmage, and from my untrained eye he did better than I thought he would. Of course, I was rooting for him, I’m always rooting for him.
Checking in with the coach after, “Give it to me straight coach – you don’t need to sugar coat it. How’d he do?” The Coach said he had a natural ability for the position and he should keep doing it.
As I sat there watching the determination on Jacob's face as he let in about 50% of the shots on goal, I realized he was doing it.
Since his very first tryout, he was playing in the arena. Literally and figuratively. And he didn’t give a rats ass about what anyone else outside of the arena thought about him. Does he listen to his coaches? You bet!
He fell hundreds of times in the past six months. He got up every single time and cheered his team on.
"If you are not in the arena also getting your butt kicked, I'm not interested in your feedback." - Brené Brown
Jacob is seven, and he already gets this – and has no idea who Brené Brown is.
Today, we bought goalie equipment.
As I watched Jacob giving goalie his all, I had an arena-a-ha moment of my own.
I was plugging along making final edits to my book, I didn’t intend to put it on Amazon for sale.
That’s for big time people. That’s for people who want to sell millions of books. That’s for professional authors. I want to stay small. I don’t want people comparing me to the pros. I can’t play where they play.
This was the story I was telling myself.
I was playing safe.
I was planning on distributing my book through my website, so I could offer my tiny book to the small audience on my site.
More importantly – if people hated the book, they’d have to go out of their way to email me and tell me they hated it…and who does that?
If it was on Amazon, people could write nasty things about me. They could tell me how much I suck with the click of a button and a few keystrokes.
After getting my ass kicked by Ry (not literally) after telling him I wasn’t putting the book on Amazon, he helped me realize I was playing small and safe by hiding my book. This way, if the book flops, no one would ever really know—and I could spare my feelings.
If anyone gives me shit or says they hate the book – and like my brave 7-year old, if they’re not also in the arena getting their ass pummeled, I don’t want to hear it.
Which way to the arena?