The Playroom: Penalty shot


Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

The verbal assault from the back seat is loud. “You’re mean. I don’t love you anymore. You are the worst mommy ever.”

My daughter punctuates herself by throwing a doughnut at my head.

Maybe she’s right. Maybe putting a hockey helmet on a 3-year-old and putting her on the ice in her brother’s old skates isn’t such a good idea. But here I am, once again, hockey mom, take three.

When her brother was small enough to wear those skates he didn’t want to learn how to skate either. He never threw a doughnut at the back of my head, but he once threw a fit on the floor outside the rink, kicking and screaming and spinning himself around in a circle. Because of the blades I had strapped on his feet, I named that tantrum the “deranged lawnmower man fit.”

And when, in the interest of personal shin safety, I backed off, he jumped up and bolted. Running as fast as he could in his full gear toward the parking lot. Me running behind him, yelling not so much in the corrective tone I use when I’m not losing it but in my angry tone: “I am going to catch you! I am going to catch you! I am still faster than you are, and you can’t outrun me with blades on your feet!” Truly one of my finer parenting moments.

After that, I gave up. Told my husband I was done. I didn’t care if the kid ever played hockey. And when my husband asked why I was persisting on trying to put a child who didn’t want to learn how to skate on the ice anyway, I told him what a friend had told me.

“If you want your kid to play hockey, you better get him on the ice when he’s 3.”

My husband’s next question was logical. “Do we want our kid to play hockey?”

My response: “How should I know if we want our kid to play hockey or not?” I grew up in Virginia. You’d have to drive two hours north to Richmond just to see an ice rink. What do I know about hockey?

Then I told my husband what other mothers had told me. That whether it was hockey or something else, the kid had to do something or he was going to end up hanging out in the parking lot after school doing drugs.

“Drugs? That’s why we’re doing this?”

“Yup, your kids have to be involved in something, sports, drama, band, something so they don’t hang out in the parking lot after school and do drugs.”

So here I am. My son now loves hockey, as does his older sister. I’ve got two kids in league play, 54 hockey games and three tournaments scheduled in the next five months, and I’m thinking maybe it’s all just a bit much.

All the soccer, karate, hockey, ballet, language lessons, T-ball, swimmingand scouting, and we don’t even take piano lessons or play chess at 7:30 with the chess club on Thursday mornings before school.

How did it come to this? When I was a child, time did not stand still at soccer practice but in my room, where I had the unscheduled space to devour library books, or out in the neighborhood playing hide ‘n’ seek until the street lights came on.

Even though I’m not about to change the world any time soon, I still made the varsity soccer team in high school, and I didn’t do drugs or hang out in the parking lot after school.

These crazy schedules and hectic lives — we even schedule in our children’s play and call them play dates. I want to let my kids run and jump and play without having to load them into the minivan first.

But if I do that, I’m afraid they’ll never make the varsity team. In a world where field hockey starts at age 8, and without trumpet in fourth grade they’ll never make the high school band, I fear the parking-lot option.

So here we are in the suburbs, and I’m spending way too much time driving around in my minivan, and I don’t even want my kid to win her soccer playoffs because the last thing I want to do on Sunday night is a championship soccer game. We’ve got hockey practice and Spanish homework on Sunday nights. I’m a little stressed out.

Sometimes I think maybe I should just call my doctor and ask for some drugs.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at

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