My oldest son has started to play hockey full time this season. He is super crazy passionate for the game. He watches it, plays video games, shoots pucks in the driveway, stick handles in the living room and counts the days between when he can be on the ice. There is absolutely nothing that is going to convince this boy that he will not one day be playing in the NHL just like the players he currently admires, studies and learns cool stick handling moves from.

Part of this journey now means getting support for him outside of our family. We knew this day would come cause there is only so far you can take these passionate information seeking wildly committed children on your own.

When we started with skating lessons we bumped in to the most perfectly matched mentor for him. She was patient, supportive, understanding and she saw the passion in him. She kept him motivated and challenged by speaking from a place of respect for his process. Noticing who he was and meeting him there. It was all we had hoped for.

Fast forward nine months and my boy who previously could not skate, is now hockey stopping, fast skating, stick handling, goal scoring and passing spot on 85 percent of the time. He is gearing up to meet his first coach. We are all excited to see who will be the next person to inspire and support this journey.

Now it is worth mentioning at this point that in our time at the rink twice a week we have seen some pretty heart breaking interactions between adults and children. The sort that take the child right out of the equation, lower their status and speak to them with no respect for who they are. My son, who is used to interacting differently in the world, notices these things. He gives me an eye roll or a knowing smile and we hit the ice. We talk on the ride home about how folks can be so different. And he shares that he is thankful he doesn’t have parents like that. One of those, phew, I got at least one thing right moments.

I was late getting to the rink the day he met his first coach. I knew something was up. He was fully dressed waiting to go on the ice and when he saw me he made a bee line to my side. “Mom remember that guy who made his son go on the ice with no socks. And said he’d never make that mistake again? He’s my coach.” Heart broken.

It would have been easy in this moment to ignore his disappointment to tell him some made up piece of wisdom that would negate what he was feeling. But the truth was at this moment his hopes of having a respectful coach were teetering. He needed to feel heard by me the person he trusts most in the world. I came up with “Oh dude that’s disappointing. Maybe he was just having a bad day that day.”

It has been over a month now. We have had many interactions with this coach. That prove he was not just having a bad day. He speaks down to the players all the time. It’s the typical I am in the power position and you couldn’t possibly have anything to offer sort of stuff. He continues to be rude to his son. And my son continues to notice all of it.

I have tried forging a relationship. Sharing what I know to be true about my son’s abilities and offerings. He doesn’t want parent input. He is the coach. He will make the decision. That is that.

These are the moments as an unschooling parent that take more courage than I had imagined before. It is time for some serious out of the box thinking and constant reminders of what is most important.

First most important thing is my relationship with my son. So that means keeping my word to him. Being the parent I have always been to him even when everyone else around him is being something different. Standing up for him even if it means getting in to conflict. Listening to him. Listening when he comes off the ice and has nothing nice to say. Truly hearing his feelings when he says “I hate that guy. He talks to us all like we are stupid.”  This part is tough. Cause I wanna try and make him see it differently, find the positive. But that would damage my relationship with him. My role now is to help him feel heard. On the ice he is not being heard, he is not being respected and I will only damage our relationship if I do the very same thing to him. So I just listen. And later I offer coping strategies. Ways he can assert himself. I don’t insist he use them I gently present them as options, seeds. And I remind him how much courage I think he has to get out there twice a week and put his love for the game above everything else.

Secondly, I make sure he continues to have positive experiences with the game. I find articles. I shoot pucks. I track down drills. I send the coach and other parents articles, information about what is going on in the game, in the hockey community. I build relationships with people on the sidelines whom I see could possibly be more supportive on my son. I find out who’s in charge at the rink and connect with them. I talk to other coaches. I watch and listen to find those people who might just be able to show my son not all coaches are going to be like this. I build relationships with his teammates. The young people he shares ice space with. I am the behind the scenes creator of wider opportunities to keep the passion fueled.

And I vent all of my tears and frustrations to trusted friends, hopefully when he is not listening.

I am grateful for the tribe I have built around myself, near and far, that shows a different way of being in relationship with children. One that honors and respects who they are as fully as they deserve to be.  It is with in this place that I have built the trust and courage I need to go in to the world and be an example of just how differently one can be in relationship with their children. To be that parent in the locker room not afraid to laugh, crack jokes and listen to what each child has to offer.  To be an example of how a more peaceful world truly does begin at home, by being kinder to our children.