Photo by: iStock

I’m Cold from July to April, But I'll Never Give it Up

by Megan Jarrett of "Mamapedia"
Photo by: iStock

I have a collection of wool socks, winter coats, and a variety of blankets that never get put into storage. Boots have a constant home in my closet, and my fleece lined crocs…well, I go through about two pair a year.

No, I don’t live in Alaska. My kids play ice hockey.

It wasn’t originally my idea for them to ever play ice hockey. My husband played in college, though, so I married into this. We always let the kids take the lead on what they wanted to do. At age two, our very verbal, very opinionated daughter asked for ice skates. So we scoured online stores to order a pair to fit her tiny feet for Christmas, and by age three, she was skating unassisted.

Which is why, when she was diagnosed at age four with Sensory Processing Disorder, we were confounded. “She has vestibular issues, that’s why she falls so often,” she told us. “It’s likely that she will never ride a bicycle or ice skate without intense therapy.”

But she was already skating. In fact, we had just signed her up for a hockey program at her request.

Her psychologist told us we should put her in individual sports if she was interested, as she would likely struggle in a team atmosphere. She was six, and it was clear that she had Autism on top of the SPD. She also had anxiety, OCD, and ADHD tendencies. A combination, we were told, would lead to her not being able to handle team sports.

But she was already on a hockey team and loving every minute.

The ice is like therapy for her. She works twice as hard to maintain her balance. She fights her own body when she has to make sudden changes in direction. Even putting on the necessary equipment can be a challenge – even tags on clothing and seams on her socks feel like knives to her, but she fights through it for the sport she loves.

Is she going to be a superstar player? It isn’t likely. We aren’t counting on college scholarships or pro teams scouting her out. Who knows, though, she’s already surprised us a million times. But even if it doesn’t, being on that ice has already paid for itself in so many other ways.

On the ice, she must overcome her compulsions to do things perfectly. If she makes a mistake, she needs to correct it quickly or move on. If she falls, she scrambles to get up again or be left behind.

On the ice, there are set rules that are complex, and not everyone follows them the same way. She learns how to be flexible yet follow the rules, much like in social situations.

On the ice, she makes friends. She knows her position and uses her unique perspective to gain any advantage she can. She communicates, quickly, loudly, and clearly, to help her team. She stands up for herself and learns how to deal with bullies, authority figures, and peers. If she makes a mistake, she gets two minutes to think about how she could have done it better while she watches from the penalty box. She also has started to communicate with the coaches to voice her needs and how she thinks they can be met when possible – like asking the coach to let her sit outside the locker room if it is too noisy or crowded.

This is her therapy. It’s not covered by any insurance. It isn’t even supposed to work. But for her, it does. The sport she shouldn’t, by any account, be able to play, has become an essential part of her life and has improved her quality of life tremendously in 5 short years.

Not a bad tradeoff for an empty wallet and chilly toes.

Megan Jarrett is mother to two sarcastic and witty children – which seemed like a great idea until they got smarter than she. She also is an accidental lacrosse coach, hockey mom, and has perfected the art of cutting burnt bits off of garlic bread.

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