A sign of the times

I am not sure how exactly parenting became the responsibility of the world at large. When people start up with the “It takes a village” pitch, I point out that there are far more village idiots than there are learned elders. My personal parenting playbook is instead chock full of trick plays and team philosophies that can vary depending on the situation. I free-range. I helicopter. I indulge and then I dictate, leaving my kids completely baffled as to what I will pull next.

It’s good to keep them on their toes.

Despite these schizophrenic inconsistencies, my desired outcome has never wavered. My husband and I both aspire to produce functioning members of society. We want our boys to be kind, to know hard work and to have common sense. One of the reasons I finally embraced the whole youth ice hockey movement over the last few years (despite hating cold ice rinks) is that many hockey parents share a no-nonsense approach. The level of commitment and discipline required of hockey families is incredibly intense. You would be hard-pressed to find parents without a firm grip or understanding of their child after getting up for 7 a.m. practices or driving hours to a tournament in Kenosha.

When it came time to allow my 11-year-old to spend an entire weekend back and forth at the local school carnival fundraiser? I brought in outside talent. I brought in a hockey kid who once saved his family from a house fire and who regularly demonstrates more maturity than most adults. The sport continues to attract that old-school parent diametrically opposed to infantilizing kids.

So imagine my surprise when I arrived at our local ice rink the other day to find this sign:

I chuckled.  Surely this was a joke.

Then I noticed more:

My happy bastion of self-reliance and autonomy had been desecrated. The ice rink is where skaters are taught to be ashamed whenever they allow their mothers to haul in their heavy bags.

It is where locker room speeches on never giving up are first heard. It is where signs aren’t supposed to tell you that ice is slippery but rather:

When you win, say nothing. When you lose, say less.

I quickly sought out the rink manager for answers. Basically, he was told to do it. Blame the lawyers. Blame the insurance adjusters. Blame the fact that some person out there once complained that there was no sign advising that ice is slippery.

The only comfort I found came in the form of hockey parents. Besides the unified “OH FOR CHRISSAKES” mutter, there was a shared belief that if you fell on the ice, cut yourself with a sharp skate or bit too quickly into a tray of hot cheese curds, then shame on you.

While I don’t accept that it takes a village to raise a child, finding a community that makes you laugh, fits four hockey bags into a single carpool and unthinkingly yells at your kid “ACT LIKE YOU’VE BEEN IN PUBLIC BEFORE!” is a gift I won’t quickly forget.

No sign needed.

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