It has been said, likely by yours truly during a recent 3am twin feeding, that parenthood is one of the most difficult, most exhausting, most rewarding pursuits we can undertake. The difficulties are easy to identify and are everywhere you look — they manifest themselves on formula-stained suit jackets in line at Dunkin Donuts and on red-faced parents standing over hysterical toddlers in the frozen food aisle. Parenthood is directly responsible for curbside takeout, in-car DVD players, and, I’m sure of it, alcohol. Ask anyone who’s ever done BOS > LAX with children (or seated near children): raising them is hard.
The rewards for parenting, however, aren’t so universally visible, nor are they consistent from one family to the next. I worked with a guy who once said “I have no idea why anyone would ever want kids.” It sounds harsh, but you can’t really blame him. My coworker wasn’t in my living room the first time my then-18-month-old said “Red Sah” when I asked him what his favorite baseball team was, and he’s probably hungover at 7am on weekend mornings when, clad in street hockey goalie gear that would fit someone twice his age, my son is “Timmy Thomas”, fielding shots from “Big Z” in front of the fireplace. You see, the rewards that come along with raising your own little fire-breathing monsters tend to pop up when you least expect them and take place during intimate moments hidden from outsider eyes — but it’s these moments that allow you to forget about the formula stain on your Brooks Brothers’ lapel.
When it comes to dads, particularly dads whose lives once revolved around sport, there is often a special bond between the generations, one that can start at a very early age. If done correctly, there is no “pushing” of a child into a particular sport or towards a particular team. Rather, there is an “introduction”, an opportunity for father and child to share what is important to the elder, in the hopes that the younger develops a similar affinity. There are baby outfits from the local team, pacifiers bearing their logo, late-night conversations with wide-eyed newborns about umbrella power-plays and the benefits of wooden sticks. With mobility and increased dexterity comes early play, swatting at baseball tees and plastic pucks. Nervous dads watch intently: “Honey, did you see his slap shot? He totally just lifted it.” The child beams. The wonderful voyage of a child sharing sports with his or her dad has begun.
These days, sports are everywhere in our house. Despite two-month-old twins laying claim to some serious plots of interior real estate, hockey gear, sports toys, and balls and pucks of all shapes and colors litter our house, the not-so-subtle reminder of the sports-crazed toddler we find ourselves parenting. As a dad, I could not love it any more. Hockey is ‘numÃ©ro un’ in these parts, obviously, and the local team’s late summer run towards the Cup has provided an extra burst of hockey fever: just about every other morning, having gone to bed the prior night before any puck had dropped, I’m greeted by wide, beautiful eyes, limitless energy, and two questions:
“Did the Bruins win? Can we watch the highlights?”
And so I share the news, good or bad, and depending on the carnage (or lack thereof) from the night before, click over to NHL.com for the video proof. Nestled in my lap, the owner of those beautiful eyes stares intently at breakout passes and hip checks, at glove saves and one-timers. To him, hockey is a fun sport, the Bruins a good team, Tim Thomas a local hero. For me, those ten minutes are one of a million parts of a greater personal evolution, one that sees me inching ever closer to fatherhood, one that sees me leaving my childhood behind. At 31, I’m old enough to be considered “old” by high school kids worldwide. But I’m still young enough to remember being that boy doing these things with my dad, and I’m hyper-aware of the metamorphosis taking place within. And I’m loving every second of it.
As a lifelong fan of the Boston Bruins, their run to the Cup Finals these last two months has been special. Our twins entered the world the afternoon of Game 1 against the Canadiens on April 14th. They were 13 days old when, holding my daughter in my left hand and the remote in my right, Nathan Horton ripped one past Carey Price to win the series. I spent a large majority of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Lightning holding our newborn son, trying in vain to shush him to sleep as I bounced around the living room, too anxious to sit. And both twins have enjoyed (gentle) celebratory dances with dad in the bedroom whenever the Bruins beat Roberto Luongo these past two weeks. Did you think Daniel and Henrik were the only twins involved in these Finals?
There was a time when I’d head out to a sports bar or a friend’s house to watch the playoffs. I’d have a few beers, bust some chops, watch the game, and head home. This year, during a B’s game, you’ll find me clad in sweats and folding laundry or feeding one of the babies. It’s a new world, this parenting thing. And while there is no Cup waiting for me at the endgame, there are a million tiny rewards along the way.
In the future, there might be travel tournaments, state finals, all-star teams. Or there might not. Right now, it doesn’t really matter. These days I’m enjoying the living room shootouts, early morning highlight reels, the curled-up babies on my chest during OT thrillers, and boundless enthusiasm for the game I love from the people I love most.
And that makes for one hell of a Father’s Day.
Hopefully all 3 kids will read this some day. They’re very lucky to have you.
awesome stuff joe, sharing hockey with RJ must be a real treat for you, can’t wait til you sign him up for team play will be fun to go to a game or two!!:)
I try to get the boys interested in football, but sadly (for me at least) they want nothing to do with it….I guess if the QB could shoot lasers from his eyes, or the RB could leap tall buildings in a single bound, they would be right next to me on Sunday afternoons!:)
Keith, what I probably didn’t articulate as well as I could have is how fortunate I am. Meg asks me all the time: what if RJ didn’t like hockey? ‘That’d be perfectly fine’ is what I tell her. And it would be. I’m just very lucky that he does. If he liked chess or robots or sharks with fricken’ lazer beams on their heads, we’d share that too. Just makes it easy to write posts like this when he buys into our collective family hobby.
Sometime I wonder, then I read your post and I am so proud to be your Dad
You started it, dad. It goes without saying that RJ wouldn’t care much about tonight’s game if you didn’t get up for your alarm at 5am on Saturday mornings starting 27 years ago.
Awesome piece Joe and while I’ll be cheering (with the Boy and Devil) for the other team in game 7 tonight, we certainly share a common bond with all the other hockey dads that you’ve captured well and appropriately only a few days before our one officially recognized day of the year.
Pardon me while I wipe the tears that are streaming down my cheeks! Great Article, Joey. You are such a fantastic writer!!!!
Joey, that was awesome! You are so right…cherish these moments while you can. It is a very special time in our lives!
Joey, I’m not surprised with your passion for hockey. However, I am least surprised by your passion for family. Your wife and children are so fortunate to have such a dedicated husband/dad. I see great things in your future! Beautiful article Joey. Oh ya, Bobby…nice job! Happy Father’s Day!
Joey, You made me tear up that was a great article! You are an amazing father and husband! Happy Father’s Day!! Enjoy your day with your perfect little family!
Wonderful piece of writing! Being a hockey dad has been a terrific experience for me as well, but being a hockey grand dad is going to be ‘Off the charts’.
Continue being a great dad and keep up the inspirational writing, you are making a great impact
Dan (the oldest one)
Joe, great piece. My daughter was born just prior to the Blue Jackets’ first Stanley Cup playoff appearance. She loves hockey – I’m so happy it something we can enjoy together as a family. This winter she’s going out on the rink!
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