Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Inve$ting in New Hobbie$

One thing I’ve come to realize as a parent is that your kids will do some pretty amazing things if provided with the opportunity. Another thing that I’ve learned is that sometimes opportunity alone isn’t enough. Sometimes, in order to watch your child excel at something, you need to invest cash into it.

This brings me to yet another thing I’ve learned. If you fuse your inability or reluctance to spend a great deal of money on the equipment or lessons necessary for your kids to just try something they are interested in, you will end up feeling like a colossal jerk. In your head, saying no to the kettle drum rental and lessons seems like fiscal responsibility, but as soon as it comes out it sounds more like you’re a big fat fuddy-duddy. And you don’t need your child to say that to you. You can see it in their eyes…their little, judging eyes.

Over the past year, my sons have become very interested in hockey. I’ve heard about how much the equipment alone costs to have your kid play hockey. I’ve read about how it’s one of the major reasons the sport is not popular in inner city areas. I have a friend whose son is pretty deeply imbedded in the youth hockey culture and he confided in me that had his son tried to back out of the sport, he would have been forced to stay in after the financial commitment that had already been made. Thankfully, he stuck with it of his own accord, or so my friend tells me.

When my sons’ hockey obsession did not wane over several months, I began to dread the impending requests. I thought I might have to make a similar commitment on behalf of my sons, forcing them to play a sport they were no longer into just so I could get my money’s worth out of it. I remembered my parents saying, “Yes you can play in the school band, but you can’t play the drums. It’s going to be the trombone or nothing, because that’s what we bought for your older brother and it’s sitting in the closet unused.” I never forgave them.

The purchasing of hockey accessories started with roller blades. I was fine with this. They are much cheaper than ice skates and should your kid hate them, it pretty much negates any discussion of further hockey equipment. Plus, it provides them with a means to get some exercise. Last summer, we found some roller blades on sale and they began practicing in the house, taking full advantage of one of the benefits of wood floors. They were very straightforward with me and informed me that they wanted roller blades so that they could play hockey. I told them that if they practiced and became good at using them, we would discuss sticks and pucks and nets down the road.

Now we have made it down the road.

On a recent trip to Target, my six-year-old sheepishly called to me in the way only a six-year-old who is about to ask you for something can, “Daddy?”


“Um…I was thinking,” he continued in a voice that I can already imagine being a few octaves lower and asking for the car keys, “that since we’re doing so good on our roller blades that maybe we could get hockey sticks.”

This was when I became aware that he had stopped at the entrance to the aisle where the hockey sticks, pucks and other assorted equipment were displayed. It was odd to me because we had already made our way through the toy section. This is the point where his eye for browsing usually takes a break. As we made a beeline for the grocery section, it was not common for him to notice anything other than what snacks were being picked out for his lunch until it was time to leave. Yet, somehow, he knew exactly where the hockey sticks sat and waited for him. I imagine that a curious golden glow invisible to my eyes emanated from the aisle as we approached. As we came closer, he sensed their presence. His precious called out to him.

“Ummmm…” I said, eloquently.

He didn’t wait. He immediately countered with a pathetic sounding, “You promised,” and the discussion was already at an end. We walked out of Target with two brand new hockey sticks and a package of street hockey balls. There was also a promise made that if they keep practicing and really enjoy it, maybe when winter comes around they can get ice skates.

I know that after that may come pads and better sticks. Then there may come league entry fees, fuel costs for attending tournaments and possibly lodging expenses. Some of those traveling hockey teams get pretty intense.

But for now, all I have to worry about is the noise and the arguing I hear over their indoor matches while I wait for the weather to warm up enough to get them out to the tennis courts as they take full advantage of one of the drawbacks of having wood floors. Then I can try and distract them with baseball, bike riding and fishing, all hobbies whose full range of supplies have already been purchased and, thus, come with no overhead costs.

Of course, when I see one of them lift a shot over the shoulder of the unpadded friend they deftly convinced to tend goal in our living room, I start to think it’s an inevitability that I’m going to need to spend more money on equipment down the road. Spending a little on home accident insurance might be prudent as well.

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