Oh, the sideline! The cheers, the smiles, the photo ops, the abuse hurled at the referee. The feeling that you’re part of the action when you’re, in fact, not part of the action at all. And the inevitable impulse to will your kids on to sporting glory, as if your shouting and clapping can make them go faster, move quicker, throw farther.
I still have a few more Sports Days to go, but I guess you could say it’s my turn now to pass the baton. Drawing on my years of experience, I’ve put together a list of Do’s and Don’ts for parents whose future on the sideline awaits…
…let’s call it Sports Day 101:
1. No wagering
2. No trash talking
3. No doping – has Lance Armstrong taught us nothing? – And no cheating when you’re helping tally points. That was half a lap, not a whole lap. The hooter’s gone, stop counting. Be honest, people!
4. Dads – please don’t wear spandex (ever, really) as if you’ve just come from the gym. You are not your kid. No running tights, no shell suits, and no compression socks, just… no.
5. Mums – you know those fire engine red stilettos that work really well at Friday cocktails? You cannot wear them to Sports Day. Unless, that is, you fancy clumping around in the grass or tearing up the running track, thus winning the title of ‘WTF Mum’! Get in to the spirit of the day and wear some sensible flats.
6. Remember – some kids can’t throw or catch and that’s okay. Don’t give them a hard time. They will probably be your bosses in 15 years.
7. Also – if you really must – you can coach your own kid. You cannot, however, coach the other six-year-olds by standing at the obstacle course start line and yelling, “Focus! We have to focus!” (I’ve actually seen that happen. No joke.)
8. Beware the overzealous camera. If the teacher asks you to take some snaps for the school website or yearbook, great. If you end up taking 100 pics of your child and 100 more of their classmates then posting everything on Facebook and expecting everyone to be pleased, think again.
9. This being Hong Kong, we’re bound to see some helpers down at Sports Day. It’s the way of our jungle. We should not, however, see the helper doing your job – keeping track of little Ethan’s water bottle, helping Jasmine take off her sweatshirt when she gets hot, advising Nicholas on tying his shoes. You do realize, don’t you that asking a helper to do all of these things makes you look completely useless? And Sports Day is all about participating, even if you’re not good at sports (or parenting), even if you’re bored, even if you’d rather be back at the office in front of spreadsheets or surfing Net-a-Porter or The Daily Beast. The only reason a helper should accompany you is to race after little brother or sister while you enjoy your older child’s day. It only happens once a year!
10. Further to that thought; for just half a day let’s not worry if Ethan or Jasmine or Nicholas actually sweats. Leave the washcloths and Tempo packets in your bag. Please don’t follow them around mopping their brows or necks every time you see a little perspiration. Anecdotally speaking, I’d say there is a direct correlation between kids who are repeatedly wiped down like racehorses and a severe lack of social skills. I gotta be honest here – if you hover, interfere and, more tellingly, if your child doesn’t swat you away and accepts your actions as normal, unembarrassing behavior then… well, I hesitate to go there. But can I just mention a future of Sci-Fi conventions, chronic online dating disasters, living in your basement, cosplay subcultures and… oh well, you get the idea.
11. When you line up for the parents’ race, don’t ever run in the first heat. The first heat is for the Type A, Division 1 parents. Not only will you get ridiculed for taking it so seriously, but you will get smoked down the track. I made the mistake one year of rocking up for the first heat of the Mom’s dash. Feeling weirdly nervous and excited at this little burst of competition, I visualized crossing the finish line, arms aloft in glory, and the P.E. teacher putting that sticker on my shirt: ‘I finished first!’ My daughter would be so proud. Little did I know that I was going up against a Russian mum, who in her previous life had been a competitive sprinter (she’s a lovely, unassuming person by the way). Not only did I pull a hamstring, but I had to take grief from my kids about getting my butt kicked.
12. And finally – the parachute is the best part, I swear (though absolutely never, ever at the referee).
Have fun. Play nice. Goooo team!