For someone with a low boredom threshold, there are certain challenges to be met as a parent of four children spread out over quite a few years. The first Christmas concert, for example, is always a joyful and gripping occasion. After a decade, interest wanes. After nearly two decades, you are desperately hoping for nostalgia to kick in. It’s the only way you can garner up any degree of enthusiasm. Ditto school plays, other concerts, sports days, parents’ evenings and summer fairs.
Sports matches can be particularly dire, although cricket is a paradoxical exception. It’s a game in which I have absolutely no interest, but I grew to rather like whiling away a summer afternoon, snoozing in the shade of a pavilion on a warm day, listening to the thwack of a a bat and gently rippling applause. But as for the rest of the English school team game repertoire, I am thankful I have not had to stand on many touchlines in recent years.
However, when youngest daughter announced yesterday she had somewhat unexpectedly been selected for a netball match, I was overcome by an odd combination of nostalgia and parental duty, and before I could stop myself, had announced I would go and watch.
And so I found myself at the court this evening, nose pressed up against the perimeter wire, absolutely freezing. I felt slightly out of place. I wondered vaguely if parents were encouraged to go and watch matches at senior school these days? There was only one other mother braving the cold when I arrived.
Darkness seemed to fall particularly quickly, but maybe that was the thick cloud cover. I had forgotten my glasses and found it impossible to see where my daughter was through the gloom and icicles hanging off my face. The penumbra made it difficult to distinguish the teams, and I therefore had to maintain a discreet silence for the first quarter whilst I tried to work out which team was scoring at which end.
My introverted personality meant that even when I’d worked out when to cheer a goal, I was reluctant to jump up and down and make any sort of sound or indeed draw attention to myself in any way whatsoever. I was, frankly, a dead loss as the sole team supporter.
As soon as the final whistle blew, I scampered off in relief, hoping I had not suffered irreversible frostbite.
We won, 20-6.