We had tears in the locker room this weekend. My younger daughter played in a hockey tournament in Des Moines. Her team lost the third-place game, and my super competitive daughter was frustrated. She was also tired and irritated about some teasing from her teammates.
As I hugged her and talked her through her frustration, I was struck by the courage she displays every time she steps on the ice. Forget that hockey can be a brutal sport, and you have to be pretty tough to play it. Forget that she willingly steps on a sheet of ice knowing that she will block a shot, take a hit or be tripped by a stick. All of that takes courage. But it's the courage she shows in being herself that leaves me in awe, wishing that I had half as much courage as she shows every day.
You see, girls hockey has taken off in certain pockets of this country. If you live on the East Coast, the West Coast or in the northern Midwest, you can take your pick of girls' hockey teams. But here on the plains of Kansas, we don't have a lot of kids who play hockey at all, much less girls who play. There are a few girls on her team and a handful of girls who play for other hockey organizations in her age group, but there isn't a girls' team for her to play on. There isn't a support system for girls' hockey here.
To play this sport, she has to play mostly with boys. She has to be willing to step on the ice, many times as the only one with a ponytail doing so. She has to be willing to prove that she belongs over and over again. She has to work to fit in when we travel with the boys -- because she's the only girl.
And she does it all mostly with grace and determination. It seems as if she does it almost effortlessly. But then there are the moments in the locker room when the tears roll down her cheeks. There are the moments when she comes home from practice frustrated with something one of the boys said to her or upset about a coach sending her to a lower skill group just so she can be with the other girls. And that's when I realize that to be true to her love of this sport, it takes courage.
It takes courage in great measures to be different. It takes courage to stick it out when the going gets tough, when the boys are more than she can handle and the desire for someone else to just be like you is overwhelming. Honestly, it takes more courage than I think I could muster.
I know that the lessons she's learned about staying true to who she is and how to muster up the courage to be different are ones that will stay with her through her whole life. Knowing that even when the going gets tough she's willing to be the person God created her to be, makes me confident that the courage she's learned in these childhood years will make her a force to be reckoned with as she gets older.
As her mom, I wish this road were a bit easier for her. I wish that we could offer her more than just hugs in the locker room when it gets to be too much. But I know that God is molding her into the person He needs her to be and these lessons in courage will pay big dividends in the future.
Sometimes, though our kids choose to do things that take courage. When they do, they need our unwavering support. They need us to bolster them. They need us to be there to offer the hugs and the encouragement to keep going.
Through it all, though, I know this: My daughter amazes me every time she chooses to put on her hockey gear and step on the ice. I watch in awe, and I learn something about courage from her every single day.