Last year, our younger child left home. He left to play Jr. A Hockey in the Maritimes and then for a team in Northern Ontario. Wanting to make the most of his last two years of Junior Hockey eligibility, he was not content to be on the top local team as the sixth or seventh defenseman. While he loved being on this team and he loved the coach and the organization, he wanted to play and at this level, the top teams sit and trade players right up to the deadline in December, because they want to win. At this level of competitive hockey, coaches of the top teams need to win. They need it because it secures their job for another season, opens them up to higher level hockey coaching jobs and since many of them have families to support with all the bells and whistles that come with having a family, job security is key. After surviving the bullshit of Minor Hockey, my son understands and appreciates the business of this more serious level of hockey.
Understanding the business of hockey is very important as a Junior player because you learn your value quickly and you learn how to train and market yourself to get to where you need to be, so, that in the end, all the dedication and sacrifice can get you what you want. Often that want is a scholarship to a university where you can further your education, get to a team in Europe, or for some players getting both and if amidst all the high level competition, you somehow make it to The Show, then that’s just fantastic gravy.
With all his friends either working or going off to school somewhere, my son, restless with his lot in life, went to his coach at the end of training camp and clearly, respectfully and maturely articulated that while he understood Coach had to do what he had to do to win, he also had to do what he had to do, to fulfil his goals and asked to be traded.
A week after his meeting with his coach, my son experienced what it meant to “Ask and and you shall receive,” and he came to me on the back deck looking a little green in the face. He nervously told me he was offered a trade to the east coast and asked me what I thought he should do. I smiled at my just-turned-19-year-old and told him that I couldn’t tell him what to do. I already lived my youth. I explored, traveled and made decisions on the fly and navigated my way from my teens to adulthood pretty much on my own and that it was his turn to do the same. He told me it would be a 20 hour drive away from home and I responded that it was therefore a 9 hour journey by air, ferry and car adn that we would be able to get to him if we needed to. He said he would not make it home until Christmas if the schedule allowed and I reminded him that he was the one fretting about not going away to university or working like many of his friends from highschool and that to play here as a 6th defenseman while living at home would not be as fulfilling as starting his own unique adventure.
“Won’t you miss me?” he asked, indignantly.
“I will not,” I replied, “I won’t miss you because I will be happy for you that you are chasing your dreams and goals. I won’t miss you because I am proud of the way you have made the leap from high school into adulthood in your own way. I will be celebrating the way you decided to throw caution to the wind and jumped in feet first at the opportunity to do something new and I am confident you will swim and not sink. Like your brother, you know how to cook, you know how to do laundry and take care of yourself. You can respectfully voice your opinion. You are not careless, rash or unsafe, you are good with money and you live in the era of advanced technology and we are a facetime and a text away whenever you need us. Son, if that doesn’t scream you’re ready, I don’t know what does. Whatever you decide, your father and I will support,” I said and because my personality is what it is, I also told him we were anxiously awaiting the opportunity to walk about our home for hours in the nude if we wanted to and that the longer he stayed, the longer we were going to be deprived of such freedom. He groaned, made a face and left upon hearing that sentence. Isn’t it funny how young people only see themselves worthy of being sexual and see their parents as asexual, platonic friends? Four hours later, after he literally slept on it, (he became a napper in his teens)he came back out onto the deck for dinner and told us he accepted the trade and was leaving for the east coast on September 2nd. He was beaming and and didn’t seem as nervous as he’d been just hours before, about the prospect of going far away from home. I could tell he was proud to have a new venture and I could see he was excited and ready. It was time to get the hell out of Dodge. We knew it and now he did too.
My children are not typical by any means. After our first son was diagnosed with autism, we knew our family life was going to look very different from everyone else’s and when we accepted that, we were able to raise our boys to embrace being different and to be capable of taking care of themselves. Growing up in a small community makes being different very difficult but if you are able to show your children the value and the greatness to be celebrated in being authentically themselves, they will be confident, successful, accepting and inclusive human beings. As parents, we do not believe in the cookie cutter rite of passage where a child leaves high school and goes straight to university or college. We believe that teaching a child how to be independent and self sufficient is far more important. We believe that learning how to be a part of the workforce should come before pursuing higher education. We believe that a person should explore everything and find out what intrigues them so that they can discover their passion. We also believe that higher education is not for everyone and that everyone has a lifetime to learn, grow and change. We also believe that young people should embrace all the ways one can achieve higher education, if desired, and that some people do well with the bricks and mortar aspect of College and University while others, like my son, do better on line, one course at a time. So, in just 9 days, Logan packed up what he needed, had a farewell party, and even though he pissed me off when he missed spending a promised 30 minutes with me on what to expect when going through the airport since 911, he got himself to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in one piece. I have to say, even though he went for one last hurrah and blew off my tutorial on the airport, his father and I thoroughly enjoyed sipping our coffees while watching him blunder his way from the oversized baggage check counter then through security. In true baptism by fire, he did everything wrong and felt the wrath of the grumpy airport security staff. He took so long checking in, he didn’t have a chance to grab a bite to eat before the flight and ended up with only a small complimentary bag of 4 pretzels and 3 mini cookies during his two and a half hour flight. Hunger for an athletic teen is the worst form of torture. He was in the air at 9 am and by 9:19 we were at Ikea buying the things that needed replacing after raising two little boys in our home over the last 14 years.
Don’t for one minute think we do not love and adore our boys. We do. We have done our jobs as parents. We were there raising them every day, step by step. We were there for all of it, the broken bones, the cuts, the stitches the bruises, the bullying, the anxiety, the arguements, the fighting, the yelling and the screaming. We were there for the confidence boosting, the rage, the crying, the doubt, the stress, the fun times, the crazy times, the zany times, the heartbreaking times, the first day of a new school at least 4 times each and the first wins, the first losses, the first loves and first heartaches. We loved them through it all and we taught them well and they absorbed our teachings and applied what they learned to their lives. They were equipped physically and mentally to go off on their own and most of all, they have grown into respectful young men of honour. We were proud to see them leave home and are excited and curious to see the rest of their stories unfold.
Albeit autistic, Adam, lives on his own with support, has 2 jobs and is pursuing his passion for art and outdoor adventure. Logan is playing Jr. A hockey, taking on line courses and pursuing a scholarship to a university to study Kinesiology with a desire to one day perhaps play professionally in Europe and my husband and I? Well, we are slowly renovating our home to our liking and planning our travel itineraries for the next few years. It’s our time again. Time for our new adventures and for re-discovering each other. Raising our family was not always easy. At times it was financially tricky and at times emotionally draining but we did it together, as a family, always appreciating what we had, and always working hard to get what we wanted. Sometimes we failed and while many may not consider what we we have achieved as the ideal picture of success, we consider ourselves massively successful. The nest is officially empty with a few drop-ins here and there and we can love them not as our little boys but as our adult children as they appreciate us not as Mom and Dad but as adult parents. It is indeed a very cool time of our lives.