I couldn’t help but read “The Hockey Sister,” a breezy piece in a recent edition of the New Yorker. The feature was what I expected, which is about how younger sisters are slighted by their older ice hockey-playing brothers.
The author, the humorous scribe Sarah Miller, describes what it was like to be lost in the shuffle while her parents drove her brother to games and tournaments throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic during the 1970s.
Miller nails it in describing rinks as smelling like the insides of old refrigerators, the endless drives to the middle of nowhere and all the debris under the bleachers – receipts, tea bags and sugar packets.
The piece triggered memories of my daughter Jane, our youngest, who at times attended her brothers’ ice hockey games. However, our experience was different than Miller time at the rink.
Miller was the child left behind even though she was there enduring marathon treks while watching her parents and others cheer on her hockey hero brother. The last place the unathletic Miller wanted to be was inside a rink sucking on the unpleasant fumes emanating from the Zamboni machine.
However, it was different for Jane, who only occasionally experienced her brothers’ games. She usually stayed behind with my wife, who attended games so infrequently that my son Eddie’s longtime teammate, Nick, was so stunned when he finally saw my wife, he stammered.
“I thought your mom died years ago,” Nick admitted to Eddie. It was an easy and honest mistake, Nick. The big difference between Jane and Miller is that the former actually wanted to play ice hockey. When her second-grade teacher asked Jane what she most enjoyed, she said, “Going to my brothers’ hockey games and their hockey parties.”
However, since I was a one-man transportation service, there was no way I could be three places at once. It was miraculous being able to appear at two very different rinks at the same time. If I only had more smoke and mirrors. What’s sad is now that Eddie has moved on to college, Jane could play ice hockey.
But she’s passing since our contrarian believes it’s too late to hit the ice and learn the game. Jane is bitter at 11, which takes me back to Miller’s piece. She had issues with her brother, Eric, and who can blame her since he was a typical older brother? Jane has issues with her brother Milo, 15, who can be a jerky brother at times.
Jane was asked by a teacher a few years ago what it’s like having Milo as a brother, and she said, “He makes me stronger every day.” That’s why I wish she would play ice hockey. I’m down with everything Miller wrote except the following. “I don’t have children, but I have come to understand that parenthood is mostly about getting through the day.”
Yes, there are periods that are a struggle, and it can be frustrating, but for the most part the day ends too quickly. Perhaps I can relate to Miller’s parents, who lived for their son’s ice hockey games. Just prior to surgery for a detached retina in 2014, I asked the surgeon if I would be able to attend my son’s baseball game that evening.
I was shocked the doctor said yes since the contest started about four hours after surgery ended. But I was compelled to watch Milo’s 8-U game. I looked like a pirate, but who cares?
If you look at it as if you have to get through the day when you have kids, perhaps you should not opt for children. You spend 6,570 days as a parent from birth until a child turns 18. When I look at my daughter Jillian, 22, and Eddie, 19, it’s difficult to believe that much time passed since it was usually so enjoyable.
One more note about Miller’s piece really stood out. It’s easy to forget how mean kids were during the 1970s.
“Most of the time when I walked away, one of them would say, ‘You’re fat,’ ” Miller recalled. “Or, more helpfully, ‘Do you know you’re fat?’ ” Miller’s brother’s teammate said, “Wow, you’re even fatter than I thought you were.”
My best friend growing up, Dave, who I nicknamed Nake, was about 10 pounds overweight, and the jokes were endless and sometimes brutal even though he was far from corpulent. I’ve never witnessed vicious verbal beatdowns, which were commonplace during my youth, since I’ve become a parent.
I’m sure a child somewhere is ridiculing a peer about their weight, but it was commonplace, not just on the playground with kids on kids, but I witnessed nuns and lay teachers degrade children because of their weight. During a chat with Bill Maher, the comic/TV host told me that he believed fat shaming should make a comeback for health reasons. Maher believes that if the obese are embarrassed, perhaps they’ll lose weight.
I disagree. It’s time to embrace a kinder experience. We’ve come a long way from my youth when there was a disregard for children’s feelings and safety. Does anyone else remember sitting in the back of a station wagon being tossed about since being locked in via seat belts was optional?
I’ll never forget how violent rock audiences were a few feet from the stage during the 1980s. It was commonplace for fans to push and shove in order to get as close as possible to their heroes.
For all those hockey sisters, and there are many, parents, please engage your child. It’s not enough to throw down $60 for a “I’m a Hockey Sister’ hoodie during an endless tournament. The same child can’t be the focus every weekend.
Maybe little sister can hit the ice and enjoy ice hockey, which is the greatest team sport, full of camaraderie, character building, not to mention physical fitness. I hope someday Jane changes her mind and alters her life by becoming a blade runner. Ice hockey, regardless of age or gender, can enhance a child’s life. Get out from under the bleachers and give ice hockey a shot.
Ed Condran can be reached at (509) 459-5440 or at email@example.com.
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