A good Sport…
There are many adjectives that people have used to describe me over the years but ‘sporty’, ‘athletic’ or ‘active’ have never been likely to feature on the list. I am not lazy- I rarely sit still! I suspect I’d have been diagnosed with ADHD as a child had I not gone to school in the 80s; such is my ability to be active and ‘doing something’ at any given moment! But doing sport of any kind does not float my boat!
When my husband and were first getting to know each other he was boggled at my entire lack of any back catalogue of sporting achievements and said that ‘surely I must have played some sports while I was at school at least?!’ I replied that I’d briefly played hockey for a bit and he asked what position I played. My answer was that I used to ‘sort of jog about at the back somewhere and try to avoid any contact/being hit by the ball’! I have dabbled in running since my mid 30s, especially during lockdowns but again, the motivation for doing this was more about having 45 minutes peace and quiet away from the children I birthed and man I agreed to marry after we’d all been locked up together for months at a time! In summary- I’m much more likely to have been found pottering or reading than playing any kind of team game or setting a new PB on any kind of track over the last 41 years of my life.
So genetically, I envisaged that at least 1 of the 3 children we brought into this world would follow in my footsteps and prefer sitting on the sofa with a good book than bombing up and down a pitch, track, pool or field! My genes may have given them all my light blue eyes over Jon’s more dominant brown ones, however when it comes to preferred ways to while a way an hour, they seem to have entirely eradicated my DNA! All three of them are super active, high achieving, hyper athletic sporty types!
I’m really glad about this for many obvious reasons. I’ve reached an age in life where I need to exercise if I’m going to keep eating cake at the rate I like and still fit in my jeans. But all exercise for me feels like hard work- I really struggle to motivate myself to do anything and will always prioritise a million other things over going for a run or doing a workout. It just isn’t built into my habits and mentality and I love that our kids will go ahead in to later life with exercise and being actively healthy being intrinsically built in to their being. I also love the wider circle of friends it brings to them and the confidence it builds in terms of going to new places, meeting new people and widening your horizons. I love that when they write the list of people to invite to their birthday parties, its always a mixture of friends from school but also team mates and other club members. A few months ago I watched George wicket keeping in cricket having a long and in depth chat with the other teams umpire in between overs (he was a Sikh gentleman and must have been well in to his 60s). When he came off and I asked him what they were chatting about, he said they’d discussed the merits of each teams bowling, what they thought the weather was likely to do for the remainder of the game and what they were having for tea when they got home! All three of our kids will happily chat away to anyone they meet (obviously we’ve discussed stranger danger!!) about a range of topics which is one of the things I love to see and I think participation in sport has been a huge factor in making them so socially adept.
I think it teaches them important life lessons- we’re still working on being a good winner and loser (board games with Esme is still a life threatening pursuit!) but there are plenty of opportunities to build on this! Our kids are really independent because they are used to being at a swimming gala for the entire day and not having anyone to pack up their stuff at the end of it. And ultimately, they are fit and healthy and ultra competitive and resilient and learning skills and habits which they will be able to take forward with them well in to adulthood.
So surely there can be no negatives??? Of course all the things listed above are brilliant and all contribute towards raising the kind of kids we envisaged we’d send in to the world as fully fledged adults! But man alive having sporty, extra-curricularly, hyper-active children is exhausting! Physically, mentally and financially exhausting!
George plays for a grassroots football team, a cricket team in the summer, swims on a squad and does a rink hockey club. Esme is a gymnast (4 hours a week), swims on the same squad as George, does cross country and has just started netball twice a week. Ted is new to the game so is not yet established but does swimming lessons, gymnastics once a week and is starting football shortly! They all also have piano lessons to balance out some arts!
Keeping track of who needs to be where, what kit they need when (and making sure its clean!), sorting out subs/payment/fundraising and generally just being in the right place at the right time is a full time job! And that’s without even factoring in keeping up with the WhatsApp groups! Plus all this has to fit in alongside reding and homework and practising spellings and play dates. And maybe even an occasional bit of downtime?!? Weekends no longer harbour any rest from the madness of the week- we have a brief window on a Saturday morning with nothing on but that is often taken up with competitions or the inevitable kids parties. And as they get older the after school sessions seem to get later meaning its often 9pm + when we finally get in and I can take my bra off! We talk regularly about whether they are doing too much? Would they like to drop something to claw a bit of time back for themselves? But the answer is always the same- they love everything and don’t want to stop!
I don’t love everything. Grassroots football has always come fairly low down my list. It’s cut throat and taken far too seriously at some clubs you play and I hate to see kids being shouted at by grown adults as if they’ve just messed up the champions league final instead of losing a match between two groups of 8 year olds on a slanted pitch in the local park! Plus it always rains and is freezing. On the other end of the temperature spectrum, swimming is also a tough one to support and spectate; galas are incredibly long days with early starts in conditions hotter than the surface of the sun! I once sat and watched George one day at Ponds Forge; we were there from 7.15am and left at 6pm and I saw him swim 3 races- all of which lasted less than a minute and one of which he got disqualified from due to his turn! I leave every time with a rip roaring dehydrated headache, rueing the day I gave birth to children who are basically merfolk! Cricket is generally my favourite- there is usually a bar, it only plays in the summer and the first sign of rain its off quicker than you can say ‘evening in front of Netflix instead!’
I do love how much they love it all but I don’t always love the lack of time we get as a family as a result of everyone being on a different pitch or venue. And I do often wish the pace of life was just dialled down 5 or 6 notches on the scale! I think its hard to know how hard to push and when to stop and to judge what your ultimate aim is in all this. At the minute, they happily go to everything and would add more in if they could. I think they are also in a position where they are really good at lots of sports rather than focusing their time and being really great at one. I massively don’t care about how they do or where they come but I can see that long term, that’s probably how frustration kicks in and the ‘I want to quit’ conversations start.
So, for now we’ll carry on living a high paced, frantic life in a variety of sporting venues while ever they still want to go… and I’ll keep telling the kids all this time I’m giving up had better lead to the really good sponsorship deals in later life! I’m talking cars and jewellery- I don’t want any of this deodorant nonsense- Momma wants the good freebies kids!!