Minding my Own Mind

iStock_000001320953_SmallTravel hockey tryouts were this week and watching my son skate across the ice over and over and over again, I realize that I learned more about myself than Zach’s coaches could possibly have ever learned about him.

To set the stage just a little, next hockey season Zach will be moving up to the next age bracket, kind of like going from ruling the school in your last year of elementary school to being the newbie in middle school. It can be a daunting transition. And to make matters worse the tryouts combine all levels of players together, regardless of skill or experience. Zach has tended to be on lower tier teams based on ability, so we knew he’d be facing some stiff competition. Putting this picture together, we knew before his skates were even laced that Zach would be among the less-experienced players, competing against kids that would be bigger, older and, frankly, better than him.

I was worried that he might get discouraged, and I was right.

What I didn’t know was how discouraged I would get. It’s 10 year old hockey right? It’s not like I have some secret fantasy that he’ll play for the NY Rangers someday. I’m not even thinking college hockey.

Nevertheless, I was totally and completely invested in this thing. And as the tryouts dragged on and his spirits sank lower and lower, so did mine. And worse, I got annoyed. “Why isn’t he trying harder? He looks like he’s giving up.” And then the resentment started to creep in. “If he’s not even going to try, why am I wasting all my time, effort and money being a hockey mom? This is the last time I get up at the crack of dawn to get him to the rink!”

I’m not proud. It was definitely one of my lower parenting moments. Where was my compassion for this child who is the light of my life?

But here’s where mindful parenting comes into the story. At some point perspective came back and I was able to dispassionately observe my thoughts. And the moment I was aware enough to notice just how crazy  unfair I was being – that I was being way too harsh and way too invested in the outcome of a kid’s hockey try out , that my son needed and deserved my love and support, not my judgment – that was the moment that enough space arose to allow something else to come in. In this case, the wisdom, the compassion, and the opportunity to make a different, better parenting choice.

So I’m not proud. I was petty and unfair to myself, and more importantly I was unfair to Zach. But, lucky for me, this mindful parenting stuff works, and, with the help of only a few mindful breaths, I was able to cultivate enough awareness to put my own “stuff” aside and be there to help Zach with his own feelings. I could recognize that all my negativity had much more to do with my own stuff, mostly my own fear of inadequate parenting, than with anything really going on with him. By the time the tryout was over I was able to be there for him totally and completely, to help him navigate his own powerful feelings of discouragement, his own fear of failure and rejection. He needed me, and I was able to give him my best self in that moment.

The happy ending to this story is not really that Zach made the team he wanted, although we’re all super excited about that. Much more important are the lessons we learned about ourselves. Zach learned that perseverance and hard work really can pay off. And I learned that when it comes to parenting, it’s important to always remember to mind my own mind.


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