I've known for awhile now that our seven-year-old boy (the only one in a gaggle of girls) doesn't want to be a hockey player.
When he first asked to give it a try, my husband was more than happy to support his efforts. I was a more reluctant fan, but seeing them head out the door each week with hockey bag and stick slung over shoulders was enough to win me over. Time alone with Daddy is hard to come by.
I never developed much of a taste for watching him on the ice though. I did my best, but each collision and fall to the ice sent me reeling. So father and son kept at it and I found other things to keep me busy until they returned and I could see he was safe and sound.
There were lucky goals, butt pats from teammate's sticks, and glove bumps in the players' box that brought big smiles. There were great end-of-season celebrations and tiny trophies that boosted morale.
But as the game became more fast-paced and physical, I could see his excitement starting to falter. As much as he loved to find the puck on the end of his stick, he wasn't keen to plow through other players to get it.
Halfway through his third season, I mentioned it might not our boy's sport of choice. My husband asked me not to write him off. He was the one that stood rink side each week, after all. And he saw moments of joy he was certain would increase with time.
The reasons he wanted to share the hockey experience with our son were many and having that ritual of heading to a rink and hanging out in smelly dressing rooms was theirs alone.
And so they carried on through the bumps and jostles that had our boy wanting to come off the ice mid-game.
Then last week, he was hit incredibly hard by another player; one that was twice as big and skating twice as fast when they collided. My husband later described his fear as he ran down the stairs and onto the ice.
That night, when our little player was asleep upstairs, he told me about kneeling down on the ice and looking into our son's eyes as he checked if he was okay. And there he saw what I had seen much sooner. Like his dad, our boy had reasons for wanting to play hockey, but his numbered only one.
"He's been playing for me."
I could see how bad he felt. But there's no blame to be laid. He is guilty only of wanting the best, of wanting to be a memory maker, of wanting his child to know that he believed in him, and more than anything that he wanted to spend time with him.
And he achieved those things and gave those gifts.
Hockey skates or not, I have no doubt he'll find ways to keep giving them.
They'll skate, swing clubs, run, bike, laugh, build Lego models and write about chicken feet.