Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Shirtless And Future You

Sometimes when it's cold outside, Eli 11.3 changes into his Under Armour in the warm car instead of the cold rink. We were in the parking lot of the rink yesterday, and Eli was changing. He still looks like a human Q-Tip, even though he can do 40+ pushups.

"There's a shirtless boy in the car," he said. "Look out, ladies, too much heat!"

I couldn't stop laughing.

"Dad, I was just kidding!" he said, laughing.

"I know," I said. "That's why it's so funny. That is A+ material, my friend."

That's the funniest thing he's ever said. If he's not a hockey player or a magician when he grows up, maybe he can be a comedian.

After practice, on the way home, he was talking about the teams in their upcoming tournament. In particular, two teams that played at the AA level in the last tournament, but were dropping down to play at A level. These are serious, serious teams, with high-level skaters and three full lines, plus solid goaltending. Eli's team has two lines--barely--and they don't skate nearly as well. Plus, they get less ice time as a team than anyone they're going to play.

"I can't believe those teams are playing in our division," he said. "We are going to get killed."

"That would be okay," I said.

"What?" he said. "What does that mean?"

"Well, if you have a 50-shot game, you'll have 45 saves."

"What if I only have 40?" he asked. "I might give up 10 goals."

"That would be okay, too," I said.

"WHAT?" he said.

"This is hard, but I think I can explain it," I said. "There is more than one you. There's Now You, and there's Future You. Everything you are now will be in Future You, but that won't be enough to get you to the special places you want to go. You have to grow, and I don't mean physically. So there will be games where you face 60 shots and your team is hopelessly outmatched, and those games will be a test. They will test whether you can keep your composure, whether you can continue to see every shot clearly, whether you can lead your team when everyone else--even the coaches--have given up. Those are the games that make you grow--no, that's not right. Those are the games where you grow because you believe in the beautiful battle. Those are some of the moments that will help turn you into Future You. You're already strong, but those moments will make you stronger."

We were quiet for a few seconds.

"Most kids could never handle that kind of game," I said. "They would get frustrated, and mad. They would start battling what had already happened, not what was right in front of them. It would make them weaker, not stronger. Some of them would just quit."

"I've seen that," he said.

"I know," I said. "but you're different. You've always been different. Most kids can't see ten minutes into the future. You see ten years into the future. I respect that very much."

"Thanks, Dad," he said.

"One of these days," I said, "you'll face 45 shots--or 50--and give up only 1 or 2 goals, and your team will win. And that will be one of the greatest feelings you will ever have."

He was quiet for a few seconds.

"Does that all make sense?" I asked.

"It does," he said. "I know I can handle it, Dad."

I know he can, too.

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