So what do you say to your son after he’s told you through his tears that he’s being call the N word … again?
I have two 12 yr old sons who happen to be twins . They also both happen to play ice hockey , which some will agree can be a very “ white “ sport. Our sons have played hockey from a very young age and they do love the sport. They luckily play on the same team (which makes our lives and schedules easier lol ) and that allows them to have each other as teammates and a “ I have your back person”- most of the times at least
One plays mostly as a defense man on the ice , so this means he is the goalie and the team “protector”. This also means that he is the “tough defend us guy”. The other twin plays mostly as an offensive player. This twin moves on the ice like a “scrawnie buzzing bee , quick on his skates and moves as if multiple lightening were striking the ground in random spots. In my eyes, he seems to be literally everywhere all at once, at times making it hard for me to keep up as he darts around the rink , in pursuit of the hockey puck. Although, I believe they can each also play either on the defensive or offensive sides, their positions soothes them. I absolutely love watching them play!
I would just love to write about my joy as a mother watching her sons play hockey, however that wasn’t the original prompting in my spirit to start on this piece. I wanted to give space between the events that happened and my writing about them, in order to allow my emotions to “settle” down. I am hoping this space and time allows me to have more objectivity as I narrate our recent experience.
So picture this with me if you may… it’s a cold January evening in the Midwest, we have a 7 pm Away Game somewhere in south county. We barely make just in time to have the boys get on the ice. I am no hockey player myself, but the game seems tense . To start with , some of the players on the other team appeared twice the size of some of our players. There had been multiple “ bad calls” by the refs against our team. This is a “no checking “ hockey team based in their age, but that didn’t seem to apply tonight for whatever reason. So when a back check from one of the players on the other team rammed one of our players into the boards , we all noticed… from the stands we all saw it , except the refs apparently. Some parents even standing up in shock and protest, the game halted as we expected a penalty to be called but..NOTHING!.
In fact the game continued much like the same, their potential penalties being ignored, and ours were called every time. They were winning hard 5-0 at the end of the game. I overheard another parent saying this was our biggest loss so far this season. Others complained about the rough play from the other team, the size differential , the bad calls from the young refs etc etc. I mostly watch the game silently nowadays because 1) , it’s kinda hard to cheer through a mask, 2) my sons had previously told me they hardly hear whatever I’m saying as I cheer from the stands anyways , so now I mostly cheer “ for my own benefit, releasing tension or excitements as the case may be.
I noticed my defense man son talking more than usual with his coach during the game and wondered what he was telling the couch. Through the years, I know my son can , at times play with his “ heart” and we have been working on just playing the game without letting our emotions dictate too much. Therefore , in the middle of what appeared to be a conflictual game, with our players getting hurt, I had worried that my son who loves to DEFEND everyone , maybe getting heated .
I wanted him to stay calm so much that I started to pray for him in my heart for the Holy Spirit to give him calm. For the most part, he and his brother hadn’t been directly involved in any of this game ‘s conflicts per se, well I guess minus one last “ bad call” against his brother the offense line player. Another player had literally ran into him, fell down while knocking the hockey stick out of my son’s hand and YUP a penalty was called on us AGAIN ugh!
The game finally ended , I chatted with some of the other parents and grandparents lightly as we waited for the players out in the lobby . Our sons got congratulated on a tough game, one of the grandparent made a point to walk up to my defense man son to tell him he was “proud of him for standing his ground “.
He is a strong tall kid and he seems to just stand like a pillar while other players who skate into him may go flying…oops.
He is also that kid who would help a player up from the ice, yes at times even when they are from the opposing team.He absolutely has a big kind heart, and thankfully always has.
My son thanked the older gentleman and we continued to wait in the lobby for his twin brother who emerges shortly from the locker room and we head out to the car.
While in the lobby , I had asked my defenseman son what he had been talking to the coach about mostly out of curiosity but he had offered me no answer back in the lobby .
As we get to our car , he spontaneously says “ Mom you were wondering what I was talking to the coach about.. well I was telling him that I got called the N word twice during that game”. My heart sank . Not again I thought. At this point, my big guy is trying so hard to hold back tears and emotions bubbling over him .
All I could do was hug my son into my chest and hold him tight. We eventually released our embrace and got out of the winter cold into our car for the ride home. I mostly listened to both of my sons process what just happened to them, how their coach had given the team a talk about tolerance after the game etc.
He told me that it happened twice by two separate players ( he memorized their jersey numbers and reported immediately to his coach as we had previously instructed him to do).Apparently the first incident occurred while they were digging for the puck, and “ he pinned me and said how do you like that Nigger?” And later on in the same game, another player had collided with him , fell down and then pulled him down by the leg and made a similar statement .
I was surprised at how calm I felt hearing all this , compared to the previous time this same slur was used on my sons on the ice rink, or even that very first time on the school bus during 2nd grade. My son was hurt but he was WHOLE. He talked about how “tiring” it is to have this happen every year at hockey” despite all the protest this past year. Then he told me how he “prayed to stay calm and to be able to forgive them” as his immediate response to being called the N wording the ice rink that night.
Resilience implies that one has strength that develops despite adversity. Our sons displayed this tonight and I couldn’t be more proud of them. We had used our long car ride back home to process our emotions from the night, they recognize their uniqueness in the sports they love. They even expressed how important it was that they continue to have the courage to play the game , in order to make room in the future for other players of color.
As I look back now, I know my silent prayers from the stands were heard. The Holy Spirit had ministered to my son out there on the ice rink and gave him peace and strength. A few minutes after we all got home, discussed more with their father whom , we had called to update on the car ride, they were back to their bubbly active selves , back to being 12 yrs boys who are safe and loved in their space. This is truly ALL I want , their safety and to have love around them ALWAYS.
Ofcourse I wondered about how young kids get so much hate in their heart to call others such negative terms , just because they’re playing a sport together? How sad that those children have negative influences that perpetuate hate.
In the end, I am glad that I was on their hockey duty tonight ( my DH ***got to take our youngest daughter to her hockey game and she apparently scored two goals and had a blast). I am glad for the balance that life affords us. I am also glad to be able to process and support my twin boys tonight. We prayed together in the car tonight reminding them how they are beautifully made by God who thankfully is the ultimate designer our life (and not negative human words).
**DH ( Darling husband)