Thursday, October 12, 2017

Canadian Blind Hockey

When Brennen was very young, and I was still coming to terms with his diagnosis, I had no idea the impact it would have on all of our lives. I knew nothing about raising a child with a disability, nothing about navigating the world with a child with special needs.

With his diagnosis, the dream I had for my child and for my family was shattered. I had to reorganize my expectations, and it wasn't easy. Believe me. Letting go of years worth of day dreams doesn't happen overnight. It was a gradual process of acceptance to get to where we are today, and I can look back now and see how I struggled with so many pieces of our life at that time.

Little things, like when it came time to purchase a new vehicle - I was adamant that I didn't want to drive a minivan because I was not a "Soccer Mom". I wasn't going to be lugging around sports equipment and dropping my kid off to practice on Saturday mornings like other moms. At a time when I was faced with so many uncertainties, one thing I thought I knew for sure was that I wasn't going to be one of the moms cheering their child on from the bleachers. And I was mad. When life throws you a curve ball, it is easy to focus on what you don't have, and I know I did this for quite some time. 

This stubborn frustration carried over into other aspects of our daily life, whether I wanted it to or not. I remember picking out sheets for Brennen's first 'big boy bed', and steering clear of anything with balls or pucks or other sports paraphernalia. I was so sure my boy would never be able to use those things, and I didn't need the cruel reminder staring me in the face every night. It was all hard enough, dealing with a new diagnosis, and getting my head around what life was going to be like for my child. I certainly did not need footballs on his sheets to make my life even worse than it had become.

It's funny, the way our minds work. I had myself convinced that so many of life's opportunities would not be available to Brennen. But I was wrong!

This week, my child played hockey!

Canadian Blind Hockey (previously known as Courage Canada) is a national registered charity that leads the development of the sport of Blind Hockey and provides children and youth with the opportunity to learn to skate and try Blind Hockey.

Blind Hockey is one of the fastest growing Parasports in Canada. It is played with the same rules as traditional ice hockey, with only minor modifications to make the game more accessible, and is played by athletes who have a vision impairment ranging from legally blind (approximately 10% vision or less) to totally blind. The major modification is the puck. Made out of thin steel, it is hollow and filled with ball bearings to make noise, it is larger than a traditional puck measuring 5 ½ inch in diameter (nearly double the usual 3 inch diameter), and moves more slowly across the ice.

In partnership with the CNIB and AMI - Accessible Media Inc, Canadian Blind Hockey runs youth blind hockey programs, summer camps and tournaments from coast to coast, and this week, they were here in Newfoundland offering a learn to skate field trip at the Paradise Double Ice Complex.

It was so wonderful to see the children enjoying their time at the arena. For many, it was their first time on the ice, and you could see their faces light up as they swished and swerved around the rink, free as the wind and loving every minute.

Brennen has taught me many things over the past twelve years, and has opened my eyes to the world of opportunities that exist for individuals with disabilities. Schools provide educational and social opportunities, but there are many incredible organizations that provide extra-curricular and leisure activities for kids with different abilities.

There is no limit to what individuals with disabilities can accomplish and achieve, especially when they have access to programs that support their learning and development. Brennen may not go to university. May not drive a car. May never live on his own. But what matters most is that he is happy, that he lives a fulfilling life, and that he always feels loved and included. Our expectations have changed, but we have vowed as a family to give him all of the opportunities we can to learn, grow, and flourish.

It is easy to get lost in the stresses of life and to focus on the hard parts instead of the good. Motherhood is so much different than I ever expected it to be, but woven throughout the chaos are lessons about the world and life and who we are in the context of a much bigger picture. It is nothing like I had planned, but I am open to these lessons that life is intent on teaching me.

Thank you to Canadian Blind Hockey, the CNIB, and AMI, for providing access to sports for youth who might not otherwise be able to participate. We had an awesome day!