Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

Kerry McLean: Why I'll be the parent sporting heels as my kids go for gold on their big school day

By Kerry McLean

I have a confession to make. I'm hoping it's one that a good few parents and grandparents will be able to identify with and one for which, in time, my children will forgive me. First let me state that my babies are my beating heart, writ large. They're funny, loving, brilliant company and I'd be happy to spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week with them for the rest of my life if I thought I could get away with it.

But here's the thing, as much as I adore them, I'd gladly pay good money to someone rather than have to watch them take part in yet another school sports day. That sounds horribly harsh, doesn't it? But let me explain before you jump to judge.

Whatever that gene is that drives people to immense emotions, all sky highs and soil scraping lows through their love of sport is missing in my DNA. I get more excited watching Eurovision than the World Cup, a fact my football crazy family can't get their heads around.

Sports day for me at school was something to be dreaded. It was a mixture of extreme reluctance at having to race and brutal boredom at watching all the other competitors. I have to confess, I bunked off the last few of my school career (Can I still get in trouble if my old teachers are reading this?! If so, my big sister made me do it!)

My first experience of watching my crew take part in a sports day almost changed my feelings towards organised games. My eldest daughter was in nursery school when we got the invite to come along and watch and I can't even start to put into words just how cute it was.

There were 15 three-year-olds taking part, no two running in the same direction at the same time, arguing over who's turn it was to jump through hula hoops and catch bean bags and, my favourite part of the day, one little boy who stopped in the middle of every race to wave at his parents and ask, 'am I winning?' There was more slapstick comedy in those 60 minutes than Laurel and Hardy managed in a lifetime. So when primary school came calling with their day of celebrating the old classics, the sack, three-legged and egg and spoon races, I actually found myself excited.

It hadn't occurred to me that, given the massive hike from 15 children to more than 100 little competitors, getting through the planned fixtures would take much more than an hour. Sports days suddenly became a full day affair, standing at the sidelines with hundreds of other parents waiting to see their little Johnny or Matilda sprint up the track for 30 seconds and then sit down again for another hour.

And worst of all, worse than spending a full day standing, usually in the rain and drinking tea out of a pot that tastes of cabbage, is the parents' race. Every year parents rock up, having put in some serious training in the weeks before. There's a lot of lycra on show (cuts down wind resistance) and top of the range running shoes (to get a better grip as they sprint).

The first year I and one other mum were caught unawares.

We had fallen for the line that 'it's just a bit of fun', a lie we saw through as we hobbled along in last place, both of us clad in jeans and sandals as the sporty mums left us in their wake. Since then I've always worn heels which serve two purposes.

They give me an excuse to get out of the parents' race and, being vertically challenged, a chance to see over the shoulders of other parents when my kids make a dash for the white ribbon.

So where will you find me this week when the fun and games are under way? Standing at the sidelines, of course, cheering my children on and slapping a smile on my face because that's what parents do. I've done eight years of this so far, only another eight to go...

Now, pass me a cup of cabbage-tasting tea.

Belfast Telegraph

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