Picture this: It’s school sports day season.
As a Dad of three, it was a proud moment when I got the chance to take child #1 to her first ever school sports day. I took the day off work and everything.
This is a mythical moment held in high regard by any parent with an active background, a time to show off the fruit of your loins, and show all those other wannabe sporty types that your genes indeed are made of champion DNA. Finally the chance to watch on smugly while junior smashes the opposition with a deftly wielded egg and spoon.
Or at least that’s the impression I got from my better half…
Not only is it an important rite of passage for said offspring in the world of (supposedly non) competitive sport, it’s also an important social experience for parents. Appearance is crucial (‘don’t dress like a hobo’ were the exact words).
Clearly I hadn’t thought this through at all as I hastily covered my faded polo shirt with a jumper luckily stashed in the car boot, and hid that with a half decent puffa jacket.
We arrived with child #2 in tow, but he couldn’t give two hoots about the assembled screaming children and edge of your seat sporting action about to unfold. He wanted to play in the playground ensuring I missed pretty much all of the action.
Meanwhile child #1 lined up to start her first ever race, and we looked on with a mixture of pride and trepidation. What if she comes last and never wants to race again? What if she falls over and is subjected to ritual humiliation by the whole school? What if she just refuses to move and stands there crying? After all she has a meltdown if she isn’t first up the stairs at bath time!
Lining up for the reception class skipping race, as if to make things worse she clocks us watching, and with a quizzical Look on her face and a shrug of her shoulders mouths over to us what looks suspiciously like “I can’t skip!”
The start whistle blows, and I can hardly look. The four teams of kids supporting their teammates reach fever pitch as eight gangly five-year-olds set off in a whirlwind of skipping ropes and limbs.
Pretty soon she is dead last, and I start to form in my head what I might say to console her later on.
Other children are streaking away in a fashion that makes me wonder if someone has been training them in the ways of the rope for months, or like some kind of Usain Bolt/Barbie Doll genetic experiment.
But just when I think all hope is gone, and her self esteem will be smashed, something interesting happens. The early pacesetters have slowed, getting tangled in their ropes, and tripping up in a desperate attempt to regain the lead.
One down, two down, and others are just tiring and slow up. Offspring starts to overtake, her initially slower but more efficient skipping technique ensuring she keeps moving while the rest all seem to fall apart under the intense pressure.
She’s moving up the field, and with 10 metres to go and she’s in 2nd, and gaining all the time. Can she do it, can she really claim victory in her first ever school sports day race?!
She only bloody does it.
We have a Winner! The teachers and helpers hand over the coveted green ticket meaning 1st place and ten points for the team.
I am left speechless with the excitement, but looking over, offspring seems pretty chilled out, matter of fact even. No biggie.
Afterwards it turns out she was really pleased to win, but with her other 2 races less successful she utters that often used phrase from primary school sports days, ‘it’s the taking part that’s counts, isn’t it Daddy’.
I genuinely don’t think this has any relation to her results, I think the school did an amazing job at making all the children feel involved in something fun. They all came away beaming. Despite frequent disappointment, tears, pain, winning, losing, and coming somewhere mid pack, they all finished with a big smile on their face, and loads of funny moments to chat to their friends about in the playground.
And surely that’s the way it should be. Enjoyment first, paving the way for some activity they can all get something out of.
And more miraculously they have somehow managed to curtail the normally violently competitive streak of daughter#1.
Speaking of which, the behaviour of aforementioned wife in the mums ‘football dribbling’ race deserves a whole post of its own. Never has anyone been more genuinely gutted to come second in something so trivial.
All notion of fun and participation went out the window, and the kids once again set the best example with amazing support for teammates and opponents alike, with the parents resorting to all manner or cheating and skullduggery.
Oh to be young again.