Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hockey and Life

A few years ago when I left my job at the Amerks, I often compared the sports world to a drug addiction. It's not good for you and it drains your wallet, but in the end it brings you some sort of pleasure that just sucks you int0 submission. You love the rush, love the concept of working in a "fun" business, but at the end of the day you end up exhausted with a small bank account, wondering where the last few years of your life went. I had very little freetime and my job was quite stressful at times. It became almost all Craig and I talked about at home, and ultimately I realized that my inability to do what I realized was an impossible job was just beating my self-esteem to bits. I used to be smart (academically, at least), and realized that my job made me feel like a moron a lot of the time. In the end it was just too much for one person to do well, and as a perfectionist on at least some level, that made me nuts. And of course, I knew Craig and I wanted to have kids at some point, and that absolutely couldn't happen with both of us there. For a while I insisted it couldn't happen even with just him there, but eventually I relented. We do ok nowadays, but another hockey season is starting, and I've been spoiled all summer with Craig being game-free all summer for the first time since our early dating days. Should be an interesting fall/winter/spring with an abundance of Mama-Jacob time for the first time in a while.

Sunday night was the Amerks' first and only home preseason game this season. Opening night is this Saturday. It was at the team's practice rink in Henrietta, and I wanted to take Jacob. He's really gotten into sports a lot over the past month or two, so I was eager to see how he'd respond to seeing one in person. We went to a handful of hockey games last year, of course, but he was a lot less aware of his surroundings back then and we rarely spent much time watching the games. Jacob liked to move even then (while in the Baby Bjorn), and we spent a lot of time visiting my former co-workers. As we headed into this year, given Jacob's current obsession with all things sports (at least, on TV), I figured we might be spending a little more time watching the game this year. Of course, that's assuming we go to games, since Jacob's a little more entrenched in his 9-ish bedtime this year. If we do go, I still have a feeling we'll be spending a lot of time running around the arena, this time because Jacob will want to run free. I'm hoping he miraculously begins walking this week so when I put him on the ground he won't immediately feel the need to crawl on dirty arena floors. Wishful thinking since we've probably only gotten about 3 or 4 steps in a row, but he's doing it more on his own now and I think once he gets it, he's really going to get it.

Anyway, he was a little thrown off when we first got there. I'm not sure what did it. It could have been having to bundle up to go in the rink. It could have been that the Amerks mascot, the Moose, tried to play peek-a-boo with him. It could have been that it was a new place, and a loud one at that. The pouty lip came out and he cried a little bit. Craig was standing with us at that point and picked Jacob up, and Jacob clung to him like crazy. He did the same with me when I took over. Eventually I got him to turn around and look at the hockey game, and slowly but surely he seemed to settle in. He did pretty well the rest of the evening, but really liked when we stopped in a meeting room to visit some people and he got to crawl around.

On the way out of the arena, we stopped to chat with a few Amerks staff members, a couple of whom I worked with back in my days there. That population, by the way, is dwindling. There's literally only a handful of people that I know anymore. Crazy stuff. I talked to them about the craziness that accompanies the week before the season and some of the usual behind-the-scenes frustrations that they're going through these days. On the way home, with Jacob sleeping in the backseat, I realized that my "drug addiction" comparison wasn't a complete one...and instead, working in sports is like having a child. Both experiences are something you dream about when you're younger, but inevitably the real experience isn't quite what you expected. Not that it's all bad, but it's harder. And there are so many ups and downs that make it so emotionally draining. Both take up an immense chunk of your time, deprive you of sleep and relaxation time, and give you more headaches than you care to count. You wonder how you're going to survive months (years) of it all. You put your heart and soul into it because it's something you're passionate about, which makes the down times that much harder to deal with. On the plus side, though, it can be so much fun. Sports and child rearing both have times of high adrenaline excitement (when your team wins or your child walks), and can bring a lot of satisfaction when you see all your hard work turn into something great. And yet, no matter how much hard work you do, sometimes things are going to end up completely out of your control, and you have to figure out how to deal with those times, too. Both allow you to extend your childhood a bit. While sports lets you live out your dream of getting paid to watch games and meet professional athletes, parenthood makes it okay to play with toys, go to the zoo, and rediscover childhood staples like Sesame Street and Chuck E. Cheese. But neither experience is all fun and games, and at the end of the day you're left wondering if the ups and downs are all worth it. This is where the similarities end, in my opinion (though Craig might beg to differ, considering he's still working in sports after all these years). With sports, it's all very fleeting. You do something great, and the next day the game is over and you're faced with another day, another game, and another challenge. It's a usually a thankless job. And while parenting may seem much the same, at the end of the day you still have something so amazing and so precious. Maybe some days it doesn't seem that way, but each and every day that you get to see your child and watch them grow and learn, it's a blessing. Whenever I have a bad day with Jacob I always try to remind myself that there are thousands of people out there who would give anything for even my worst day--parents who have lost children due to illness or injury, or people who can't have kids at all. Incidentally, has anyone seen the new season of the Biggest Loser, where one of the contestants lost her husband, five year old daughter and two week old son in a car accident? I can't even imagine. So when I think of stuff like that, I feel lucky no matter how bad of a day I had. Having a child is the hardest thing in the world sometimes, but the payback can be fantastic. Just this morning Jacob gave me a real, puckered kiss on the cheek...which was the first time he'd done one that nice. It was so great and made my morning. Just the little things can work wonders.

So anyway, how's that for a sports metaphor? :)

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