If you’ve ever seen a 7-year-old goalie, it looks a little something like the Incredible Hulk meets the Munchkins. They are tiny little kids but once in goalie gear, they’re pretty much, almost perfectly square.
The first time my husband anticipated working late and knew he couldn’t get to the rink for a practice, I had to help put on the goalie gear. So, we had a lesson at home.
“First order of business is to get the double jock on”, he said.
“The double what?”
“The regular jock shorts with the Velcro for attaching his socks first then the…. ”
“But he has socks on already, under his long John’s.”
“No, not those socks, the hockey socks that match his uniform.”
“Right, ok. Got it.”
“Then the special goalie jock with two flaps to protect his private area.”
“Holy cow, he doesn’t have that much to protect, is this all necessary? ”
(I just got the look.)
“Right, ok, goalie jock.”
“Now, his hockey pants…”
“You mean those shorts with the suspenders?”
(Eye roll) “Yes.”
Next I was taught how tie his skates super tight so his ankles had full support, then how to tie the shoelace string at the bottom of the goalie pads around the skate so they wouldn’t slip when Reid performed his various slides, butterflies and complicated goalie moves. Then Reid lay on the floor, on top of his pads, while I learned how, and in which order, to fasten the 45,000 straps at the back.
Next, the chest protector/full body armour/bullet-proof vest.
“Help him get his arms into the arm parts and make sure the Velcro is tight around his wrists, but not too tight. ”
“Right, got it. Check.”
“Next comes the jersey.”
“How does he get his arms in? He can’t lift them above his head with the arm parts of the chest protector.”
“Pull it over his head, all the way down and he slips his arms up to his sides and pops them through.”
“Oh wow, cool, ok, got it. Easy peasy.”
“Don’t forget the mouth guard, and finally the mask.”
“What’s a mask? You mean helmet?”
“No, it’s a goalie mask, NOT a helmet.”
“Right, sorry. Got it, we’re ready to go. That was easy.”
Hockey practice night arrives and we get to the rink a full hour early to give me lots of time. No one else has arrived yet, thank God. Sydney sits in the stands and avoids the “smelly” dressing room and I’m thankful for the quiet so I can concentrate. First, we get the skates laced up.
“Wait, mom, I don’t have my jock shorts on.”
“Shoot, right, ok, skates off, sorry. Jock shorts on, socks on, check and check. Next the goalie jock, right? Then the skates.” So far, so good.
“My skates aren’t tight enough.”
“What do you mean? My fingers are raw pulling on those laces… are you sure?”
“Dad does them tighter.”
“Right, of course he does.” Retie the skates. “Better now?” The nod will suffice.
He sits on the bench, and I kneel to tie the laces to the skates. Holy crap, I’m hot. I peel off my winter hat and scarf and toss it on the bench beside him. My long winter coat catches on the pads and I struggle to move it out of the way. Jesus, this coat is HOT. Shit, how do I tie the laces again? Right, ok, got it.
“No, Mom, it’s around the back at the BOTTOM, then through and a criss-cross…” Audible sigh and eye roll from my 7-year-old.
Right, untie the laces and try again. Holy fuck, I’m sweating! I fight to get my ankle-length coat off while kneeling on the floor and fire it, rather aggressively onto the bench. I can feel my face is flushed and there are sweat beads around my hairline.
I retie the laces. I think we’re good. Reid lays down on his pads and I try to remember which straps snap and how tight the Velcro ones should be.
“Hurry up, Mom, everyone is already ready!”
Somehow the dressing room managed to fill up and empty out without me noticing. Our hour is already up.
“Just a minute, almost done…”
Pads on, check. Now, mouth guard and helmet. Excuse me, MASK. Check and check. He’s ready. Thank God.
“Mom, where’s my stick?”
I freeze. Oh my God, I can picture it in the front hall, at home, by the door. Fuck, fuck, fuck! My head feels like it’s about to blow off.
“Well, it looks like we both forgot it, Reid! Isn’t that your job to remember your stuff???” I can hear the pitch of my voice getting higher and more shrill.
Then the tears start. On him, not me, not yet because I’m grinding my teeth and trying not to lose my shit. I take a breath.
“Ok, buddy, don’t worry. You go out and warm up and I’ll run home and grab it. But after this, we’re going to have a chat about who is responsible for WHAT because this is a lot of shit, I mean stuff, for Mom to look after! And I’m not the one playing hockey!” Ok, maybe not the best time for a lecture…
A few big blinks, a nod and a sniff, and off he goes. I leave Sydney with another Mom and ask her to keep an eye on Reid. I head out to get the stick and try not to drive to the airport instead.
Fifteen minutes later, I’m back and he has survived the warm-up without his stick. I, on the other hand, am wishing I’d packed my flask.
Six months later and now he’s putting on all his own gear, including the pads. He’s got this, and somehow, I still have my sanity.