Every so often a parent of a 12-year-old shows up in a youth hockey forum asking about junior hockey, and there are always a mix of reactions. Some folks berate them telling them how crazy and stupid they are to even think about juniors yet, while others just thoughtfully anwer the questions. What’s the harm in asking, though?
I get it. I’m a bit of a planner, too. I like to know what’s coming so I can be as prepared as possible, and while I like surprises generally, I don’t like them as much when they affect my bank account. Hockey affects our bank accounts in a big way. Most people also tend to not like the feeling of knowing absolutely nothing, especially when it involves their children. They are familiar with the youth hockey landscape because they are living it. They have experience with it. That isn’t the case with junior hockey. They have no idea what might be coming. That can be scary as a parent, especially knowing that there is always judgement out there. That’s probably the one thing no one tells you about being a parent, right? The sheer amount of unsolicited advice and judgement that comes with that little bundle of joy.
Look, parenting is like an 18 minute roller coaster ride. The first couple minutes seem pretty easy and fun, and then minutes 6 through about 12 are like climbing up and going down that first big hill. It’s a rush, but you survived. Then minutes 13 through 18 are like someone blindfolded you, took away the seatbelt, and set you on fire. You have no idea what’s happening or what’s coming next, and you’re hanging on for dear life hoping you come out alive. These parents asking about junior hockey when they have a 12-year-old just got blindfolded, and they don’t even know they are about to lose their seatbelts and get set on fire.
They don’t even know what questions to ask or where to start asking them, and even if they got as far as looking at college or NHL players and the paths they took through junior hockey, they quickly realize that there isn’t one set path to take. There are multiple leagues, some sanctioned, some not, and there are great teams and not so great ones in every league. It seems like the more people they talk to, the more conflicting information they get, and it gets pretty overwhelming pretty quickly. They don’t want to make a mistake they can’t come back from. They don’t want to discover something “too late.”
Of course, you shouldn’t spend so much time worrying about the future that you forget to live in the present. That’s the harm, right? Getting tunnel vision and then getting so far on one path that it feels like you have invested too much to change directions because you don’t know if you can. (Hint: Most of the time you can). These parents of 12-year-olds are just trying to hold onto that seatbelt while us more seasoned parents are roasting marshmallows over that fire knowing the seatbelt is long gone. Absolutely remind them to live in the present, but they aren’t the marshmallows to be roasted.
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