A letter to my son, who is definitely a big kid now.

a-letter-to-my-son

Dear Dan The Man (Best Boy),

It’s Sunday morning, your last Sunday as a preschooler. On Tuesday, you have your teacher interview, and on Wednesday, you begin your journey as a bonafide big kid.

I’m going to be honest, Dan. This letter is more for me than it is for you. Because there is so many things I want to say to you, but you are only five years old, and it’s your job to enjoy childhood. It is not your job to humour your old mum, or understand the complexities of the emotions that I feel.

dan-the-man2
When did you get so big?

I’m so excited for you, Dan. You are so ready for this adventure. The past few months, you have become increasingly bored. Restless. Your need for more is evident. You are full of questions, so many questions: why is night time so dark? What does that word mean? Where do dolphins go when they want to sleep? What animal lived in that shell? You long to learn, without even realising it.

I’m scared for you, too. You have your father’s stubborn determination, combined with my fierceness – a combination that leaves you naturally competitive, but prone to rage. It worries me, that this is all some people will see, when they see you. A ball of energy and frustration, which explodes, from time to time, with a force volcanic.

There is more to you, Dan. So much more.

From your father, you also inherited unyielding devotion. From me, the fierceness that fuels our anger is equaled by the fierceness that fuels our love. You are the little boy who waits for me at the end of a race up the driveway, to make sure I don’t have to come last. The boy who stood in front of a group of bullies at least twice your age, defending your sister after they had reduced her to tears. The boy who, after a particularly gigantic meltdown, will come to me in tears, so painfully full of regret for your actions that my heart breaks.

dan-the-man3
Such a joker. my Dan the man. It’s hard to get a serious photo of this kid.

Your naturally generous nature is one of my favourite things about you, Dan. When I take you for a “special day”, you always want to know: will I make sure Phoebe has a day with me, too? After your last birthday party, you divided your gifts, so that your sister and brother would not feel left out. You regularly give up the space in your bed, for your little brother’s night terrors, and your older sister’s fear of the dark.

You are funny, too, my Dan the Man. When I see you with your friends, you are the one hamming it up, telling the jokes, creating the fun. You know how to laugh at yourself. Perhaps you will be the class clown, and that’s OK with me – some of my favourite kids were the clowns, they grow up to be the best people.

I’m excited for you Dan, however I am going to miss you. I’ll miss our conversations, our lunch time cuddles. I’ll miss you when you are not holding my hand in the shops, when you are not running down the hallway with your brother, when you are no longer racing through the kids in creche to jump into my arms when I come back from the gym. Part of me wishes that time could stand still, and you could always be my little boy, cheeks flushed with enthusiasm, hair a mess from a life lived at full speed. But I know that you need to grow, and I need to accept it. Even when I don’t want to.

dan-the-man4
These walks home from dropping your sister at school, Jared on my back, and you holding my hand and telling me stories? I’ll miss them.

I will try my hardest not to cry on Wednesday, Dan. It’s such a mixed bag of crazy emotions, this parenting game. When I see you on Wednesday, your skinny legs and knobbly knees, your brand new school shirt two sizes too big (it’s really hard to find uniforms for a lanky kid like you), I know my heart will simultaneously sing and break. If you cry, I will probably cry too, and that’s OK.

I love you so much, mate. I love you so much, that last night I lay awake, desperately wanting to crawl into your bed and hold you tight. As your big, big day looms closer, I find myself hugging you harder, holding you longer. As I hold your hand, I try desperately to keep it there, safely in my own, because as much as I know you have to grow up, a big part of me is not ready to let go of you just yet. Tonight, I might let you crawl into my bed, and sleep in my arms, for just a little while, as you did when you were a little tyke.

dan-the-man-6
Cheeky, even as a baby.

I’m so proud of who you are, and who you are becoming, Dan. You and your big heart deserve all the good things. I can’t wait to see you achieve them.

Loads of love and tickle-kisses,

Your mum.

Your protector.

Your biggest fan.

Advertisements

Supportering The Sports

supportering
Nice balls!

This year, I’m coming out of the closet. This is hard for me to admit, so I’m sitting down, and I hope you are, too:

I like watching ‘The Sports’. The thrill of potential victory. The roar of the crowds. The friendly competitive banter. The wearing of ill-fitting supporter clothing. The joy when your team of choice does something good, the bitter taste of defeat. The entire experience is, frankly, exhilarating.

I’ve always been a “joiner”. I love being part of a team. And the beauty of being a part of the team that supports the team, is that it requires no special skills. Anyone can do it. And, they can do it with beer. Perfect.

My love of the sports was rekindled by my daughter’s enthusiasm. It started with the NRL, her grandfather’s viewing sport of choice. Then, the AFL, thanks to the generosity of the GWS Giants (free tickets are always welcome with a family of five). Finally, the A League, which makes sense really, us being a family of tragic soccer players. The kid loves nothing more than donning the colours of her team of choice, and joining the hordes for a rousing day of supporting. It’s pretty cute, and as the most enthusiastic adult sports supporter in the household, it was only natural that I would be the one to share the journey with her.

phoebe-sports-2
This kid loves the sports. She really does.

There is so much to enjoy about the sports. When a bunch of random people decide to unite to watch another bunch of people do things with balls, there is potential for real magic to happen.

And most of the time, it does. There was the time a supporter from the opposing side took the time to stop and comfort my daughter when she was overwhelmed by the screaming crowd at a local derby, for example. Or the time the man in front of my family turned and complimented me for teaching my children not to ‘boo’ the opposition. Or the lady who sat down and carefully explained the rules to us at an NRL game – I kinda knew them already, but her efforts were much appreciated.

Sometimes though, magic doesn’t happen. Because, sometimes, people are arseholes.

Take, for example, the time we took advantage of a family ticket, to watch the St George Dragons take on the Cronulla Sharks in the NRL. My daughter actually likes both teams, however the Dragons are her number one, and she was pretty excited to go to such a hyped up game.

A few minutes before the end of the game, long after it became apparent that the mighty Dragons were not going to emerge triumphant, we decided to beat the crowds and leave a little early. As I struggled, with three kids, a pram, and everything else that goes with children in public, a very drunk man dressed from head to toe in Sharks supporter gear staggered towards us. As the sea of blue laughed and jeered at a family of Dragons supporters leaving the ground early, this man leaned down, stared my seven year old daughter in the face, and screamed “Fuck the DRAGONS!!!!”

Fuck the Dragons. In a little girl’s face.His actions didn’t go down particularly well with the majority of the crowd, who responded by quickly dragging him away. I am the kind of person who sees red when you hurt someone I love, so I briefly considered hunting the prick down, and repeatedly punching him in the dick until he begged for mercy, however sanity prevailed and I decided to care for my devastated small person instead. She was OK in the end, thanks to some very kind supporters from both teams, who befriended her on the bus ride back to the station, however the incident will forever remain in my memory as the worst supportering moment I have ever encountered.

There was the time a guy in a beer line told me that “he would never root me”, because I supported the wrong team. This was our only interaction while in the line. To my knowledge, I had not done anything to give him the impression that I wanted to root him- I was just there, doing my “waiting to buy overpriced VB in plastic cups” thing. And the time that the lady in the seat next to me loudly told whoever she was chatting on the phone to that she hated it when she had to sit next to someone from the “other side”, giving me a pointed filthy so that I understood that I was the other sider she was referring to. And of course, there is the booing.

me-supportering
Just doing my thang, going for the wrong team. Completely unrootable, totally OK with it.

The booing of Adam Goodes at AFL games. The booing of referees who are doing their job. The booing of opposition’s coaches. At the most recent Sydney FC v Western Sydney Wanderers local derby, the booing of the Wanderers goalkeeper – a recent transfer from Sydney FC, his defection appeared to be mortally offensive to the majority of the sky blue supporters. The booing in general, honestly.

Don’t get me wrong, the positive experiences and interactions my kids have had at the sports far outweigh the negative. The majority of supporters are pretty awesome people, who smile at cute kids in supporter gear, and go out of their way to be inclusive and welcoming, regardless of team alliances. Unfortunately it is often those few negative experiences that stay in your mind. The few bad eggs that ruin the sports for everyone else.

As a parent of children who play sport, and a person who plays sport herself, I spend a lot of time teaching my kids to be good sports. To win with pride, and lose with pride. I praise and reward their good sportsmanship. I encourage them to respect the opposition. To thank the referees for doing their job. I remind them regularly that it is OK to lose. Because they will lose, plenty of times, so I want them to be the kind of resilient people who are OK with it.

phoebe-sports
She won this award for trying her hardest, and playing a fair game. She’s a good sport. I plan to keep her that way.

When random strangers abuse my kid for supporting the wrong team, or boo us as we leave because the colours on our clothing indicate that we supported the team that lost, it makes my job of teaching my kids these things that little bit harder. You show them that losing a game of ball sports is something to be ashamed of. You show that that winning is more important than behaving. You show them that the other team are a pack of arseholes. Three things that are not true.

So, don’t be a dick. Don’t be the person who boos. Don’t be the drunk fuck knuckle that harasses small children and terrifies families. You can celebrate your team without denigrating the opposition. In my experience, it’s more fun for everyone that way.