I don’t think I have ever been more proud of my daughter than I was this past Sunday afternoon! It was an absolutely amazing achievement for her in many ways, and especially in regards to her Sensory Processing Disorder / Asperger-like challenges.
We had signed her up for a FREE “Kids First” hockey class at the Dr. Pepper Stars Center, and yesterday was the class’ first venture onto the ice (class #1 was just picking up/sizing equipment).
It was absolutely precious to see all these 5-8 year olds in their hockey gear toddling around on their skates. A few had skated before (Bug has been a total of 3 times, once a year for the past 3 years at Christmas time), but the majority of these kids had never been on the ice before, and they were all certainly beginners.
She had been looking forward to this for a couple weeks. She’s enjoyed going ice skating with us at Christmas time when we hold her hands and toddle around the rink. She loves watching hockey with us when we get a chance, and she has an older cousin who had done this class years ago. To her, this was a chance to do something “cool”.
We arrived at the rink in plenty of time to get her dressed in her equipment. We had tried on the equipment a few times at home, so she was comfortable wearing the skin pads, elbow pads, padded pants, and helmet. With the exception of a bigger helmet it wasn’t too much unlike what she wears to ride a bike. She was all smiles as she received her very own jersey to wear (and keep upon completion of the class), and couldn’t wait to get started.
UNTIL…..she saw the coaches putting out the goal nets on the ice. Suddenly, she was hit with this overwhelming fear and perfectionism as she started bawling, “I can’t hit a puck into those nets, I can’t even skate yet!”. She saw the coaches skating around, professionals that they are, and assumed she would be expected to do the same. Thankfully we were able to convince her that she didn’t have to skate like the coach yet, and that they would help her.
Here is where I have to give a HUGE shout-out to Coach Katie!! The male coach (didn’t catch his name) was giving the “welcome speech” to all the kids before they got on the ice, and Katie took Bug on out on the ice and skated around with her. She held on to her, helped her up when she fell, and taught her how to get up on her own. Most importantly, she removed Bug from the overwhelming crowd of kids anxious to get on the ice, and gave her some much needed ‘space’. That did wonders for her!! She doesn’t enjoy feeling crowded under normal circumstances, but when she’s anxious that feeling just gets worse and she gets into “fight or flight” mode. That’s where she was, all ready to quit and go home just to “get away”, when Katie rescued her. She scooped her up in her arms and skated around with her on the ice. Bug’s face lit up at the “ride”, and she was able to relax a bit.
Bug was then left to skate around a bit on her own and get used to it. Of course she fell, several times, but the coaches were quick to rescue her and encourage her.
Once it was time to get everyone on the ice, they were instructed to skate (or rather, “march” on skates) around a bit and then come together in a circle in the center. From the outsiders perspective, it looked like a comedy of errors. Kids dropping like flies, some causing domino effect as they fell into someone else knocking them down too. Up and down, they all went as they tried to figure out these things attached to the bottom of their legs.
Unfortunately, during this time, Bug had reached her limit. Our little perfectionist was frustrated that she kept falling down, and was oblivious to the fact that everyone else was falling too. Her bottom was hurting from all the falls, although I suspect not nearly as bad as her sensitive body perceived it to be, since she had some great padding on. At one point, she was sitting on the ice just bawling hysterically, and our hearts were breaking. I wanted to just run out on the ice, pick her up, take her home to cuddle and rescue her from the pain – both physical and emotional.
But we waited. The coaches were right on top of things, and Coach Katie even picked up Bug at one point and was holding her on her hip (while on skates…wow!) and talking to her. Coach Katie did her best, but eventually, Emily came rushing over to the doorway to us. She’d had enough! She was crying so hard that she could barely get out the words. “This isn’t as fun as I thought it would be!”, “I want to go home!”, “My bottom hurts because I keep falling on it!”, “This is hard!”, and “My hair keeps getting in my face!”.
I took her in my arms and told her that we loved her very much. We told her that we understood it was harder than she expected, and we pointed out that she was only one of MANY that kept falling down constantly. We told her how proud we were that she was learning to get up all by herself. We told her “You could go home, but why don’t you give it a little longer and see if it gets better. You might end up really enjoying it. You don’t have to be great at it, you are all here to learn, and the coaches will help you every step”.
We reminded her that Mommy & Daddy were right here watching her, and that God was always with her. We reminded her that she could pray to God in her head and ask Him for help.
Then, we tried a little bribery – I said, “How about you try to finish the class, and if you do, we’ll go to the store and pick out a new package of stickers?” . She lit up at the beginning of negotiations! She said “If I do good, can we go to the park as a reward?”. We said “Of course, but you don’t have to be good at hockey. We just want you to try to finish the class”.
I just knew that if she finished the first class, she would be so proud of herself. I also knew that once she knew what to expect, the next 3 classes would go so much more smoothly.
So, out she went again, to give it another try, and by the awesome grace of God, she did it!!
She kept falling, but she bounced back up and kept going. She skated fast and had several times where she skated halfway across the rink without falling. She looked back and smiled at us. She got hair in her face, and went to ask the coach for help (without tears!). Her glove fell off, and she picked it up and put it back on (without fussing!). HUGE accomplishments for an SPD kid! She had been in the middle of a meltdown, and actually recovered from it within moments. Thank you, Lord!! Hubby and I were grinning from ear to ear and I was just amazed! Normally, once she hits that meltdown mode, we are D.O.N.E – done for the day.
Then, they brought out the pucks! Soft, foam ones, not the hard “professional” ones. They tossed them all on the ice, and the kids just went to town trying to get them in the net.
Another achievement for Bug!!
She got a puck and hit it toward the net. She missed. She fell. Another kid fell and landed on her puck. She hit the puck from right in front of the net and it went way off behind the net. She lost her glove. But, she kept trying!! She chased that thing around the ice, behind the net, and back before finally making it in the net!! You should have seen the smile on her face as she turned around to look at us!! You would have thought she just won the Stanley Cup! Mommy & Daddy’s smiles were even bigger than hers as we gave her thumbs up and cheers from behind the glass! The determination she showed was incredible! She didn’t fuss, she didn’t cry, and she didn’t quit!!
This is HUGE for her. Bug does not do well when she gets something wrong, or doesn’t succeed the first time. She is a perfectionist, and often quits when the going gets rough. But she kept at it! She even fell down and lost a glove during all this, but bounced right back and kept going, determined to make that goal!
After the first one, she claimed another puck and did it again!
When class was over and she stepped off the ice, her first words were “I want to be a hockey player when I grow up!”.
She went from this sad, dejected, frustrated, miserable, confused & hurt little girl at her meltdown point……
…..to THIS – proud, confident, happy, excited, determined & accomplished ice hockey class participant!!
(Sorry the pictures aren’t great. It was low-light, and we were behind the glass. The “after” picture was taken from a video, but even so, you can just SEE the glowing in her face!)
Here is the video (1 min, 39 sec) of her chasing down her first puck and making her first goal! (She's the one with the blonde ponytail hanging out of her helmet!)