It’s not every day that I feel like a 12 year old kid again, especially after the way my back feels most mornings when I wake up or recognizing the fact that I have a toddler who runs my life. However, every Sunday night now for the next 20 or so weeks, I get to feel just like that, a kid. When I strap on my skates and snap that chinstrap to my helmet, every Sunday from 5:45 until 7:00 I am putting myself into a very unsusual position: not knowing whatsoever what I am doing.
For two years now as a dad I have dedicated myself to my daughter. Everything I, and my wife as well, do has been for Olivia. With the few exceptions of a date night here or a brief trip to the casino there, I have not thought about taking any time for myself and just indulging a hobby. I don’t regret that as I cherish the time I spend with Liv and adamantly try to incorporate her into all the activities the wife and I do together. But I finally found a chance to do something for myself and good-golly was that the right call.
As many of you know, I love hockey. As a kid I played a lot of roller hockey and the occasional pond hockey when it would freeze in New York. But I never learned how to properly play. Heck, I never learned how to properly skate. I was like that kid in the Mighty Ducks 2, who could skate super fast but then couldn’t stop and just crashed himself into the boards. So at the age of 34 I decided to take part in an Adult Learn to Play Hockey program.
When I got on the ice with that helmet on and all that equipment, I didn’t feel like that confident guy who was a Special Forces sniper that could stare death in the face and laugh. I felt like that 12 year old kid who had no idea what he was doing. I was intimidated by the instructors and their knowledge. They could so easily move on the ice, go forward and backward with such grace. Take 100 mph slapshots with no problem. I have been the instructor before, being able to do so easily what my students could not believe. I have seen that dear in a headlights look before when I show a young troop a new skill and they realize they have no idea what I just said. I have seen those looks hundreds of times, and so I knew these instructors were seeing that same look on my face. It feels awkward to be situated in this role-reversal. But it is also liberating. I am not in charge. I am not responsible for another human being. I do not have to answer for things going awry. I can f*#k up all I want and it’s ok. The world will not end.
For the first time in over two years I have something that is solely for me. It is something that puts me in another world where for two hours I don’t even think of home life. I get in the car and jack up my Metallica or Avenged Sevenfold or some Volbeat and I get to just focus on what I need to accomplish on the ice for that night. I don’t worry about cooking or cleaning or fighting Liv to put a diaper on. I just get to zone. I never knew I needed that escape, but now that I am doing it I am so glad that I have it. And since it is on Sunday it is just a great way to wind down from the week and get my head clear for the start of the new week. Despite the fact my body feels wrecked afterwards, it is a great feeling. It is great for my sanity and just overall for my mental welfare.
So I don’t have a lot of profound wisdom to expel as a father that people don’t already know. However I would say this: if you are a stay at home dad, or parent, find a hobby. Find something new that you have never done before and immerse yourself in it. Take the time to learn something you have always wanted to do. Once a week I get to fly around the ice with a jersey on my back and a stick in my hands. I never thought I would find myself in that position, yet here I am. Now I just can’t wait til I get to start checking people into the boards (altho there is a high probability I will be the one going into the boards). It is so rewarding to do something new like this, not to mention that since I spend pretty much all my time around my kid or other parents and their kids, this is a great opportunity to pretend I am an actual adult for a bit. As a parent we all know that we need that something that gives us a break from our reality. So go find it.
There’s my yearly one piece of good advice people should actually listen to.