The Zen of Being a Football Mum
Dads especially seem to enjoy the life of being a footie dad. Over coffee in our local Starbucks, they often meet to spend long hours discussing the latest results in the Surrey junior leagues. Their sons always seem to score or make lots of goals. If the dads, always in jeans, with a day's stubble trying to disguise the fact that they spend their weeks in suits and ties as accountants and property lawyers, are to be believed, their amazing boys get talent-spotted the whole time by the Chelsea and Fulham coaches who hover on the sidelines of our local kids' football club.
But when you have a son who wants, like all his friends, to play football but, in addition to being about six inches smaller than everyone else his age, wants to play in goal, then a different approach is called for.
It's not an approach I've been particularly successful in finding. Because I want to live a few more years, I thought to share here about the 'other' side of football parenting and ask Mumsnet for help.
Naturally, being extremely ambitious and driven for myself, in everything I do and have ever done, I am the same for little Arthur.
But I think it is time to accept that while he is undoubtedly heading for the number one slot at being the World's Tiniest Ten Year Old Goalie, he's not heading, at least not yet, to be signed by Liverpool.
I've travelled the world, including to the heart of violent conflicts, for The Times. I've been told off by Archbishops and rebuked by Rabbis. I've hit and sometimes missed deadlines, and written hundreds of words in minutes on laptops that run out of power just as you hit the 'send' button.
But nothing beats the stress of watching a football match that can't be won in which your own child is playing is heart out but in which all hope must simply be abandoned.
As the world knows, Steve Jobs died yesterday.
I blogged his Buddhist spirituality for The Times. It's on our iPad edition this morning. This is what he told a complainant about the iPhone4: ' 'Retire, relax, enjoy your family. It is just a phone. Not worth it.' He also suggested the complainant simply 'calm down'.
There are actually quite few similarities between watching while your beloved boy tries to win an unwinnable match, or save an unsaveable goal, and in trying to make a Mac work when its stupid 'start-up disk is full', or an iPad switch on when its pathetic battery is empty. I do sympathise with the complainant. And while I respect Steve Jobs' response, it is surely a lot easier to be spiritual when you've got a few squillions in your pocket and you can just call your staff and order them, not simply to go out and buy a new phone or laptop, but to go out and build one!
I console myself with the knowledge that it was learning to deal with failure that made me successful. But I've not yet learned how to deal with failure - am I allowed even to call it that in this pc era? - in someone I love. At school, I won cross country races the whole time and ran 800m for the county. Like our son I was tiny, four feet eight inches high until I was 14 or 15.
It was losing a race to some oldergirls, again twice my size, and almost killing myself trying to win it when it was truly unwinnable, that taught me the most important lesson - time is limited, and my time was better spent reading Shakespeare.
Jobs could be irascible, despite his Buddhism, and in the US, The Trojans American football side has been drawing their own lessons from his particular, ruthless approach to management: 'The successive home runs Apple has hit over the past decade are a direct result of Jobs’s uncompromising demands and intense micromanaging, not only his creative ingenuity. The world was well aware of Jobs’s charisma and intuitive sense for success. However, few realised the intensity of his dark side, which could break into a blistering tirade at even his most favoured engineer.'
But never mind about applying this to our son's goalie techniques. He's doing that for himself. When I asked him afterwards if he considered it an evening well spent, he looked at me in disdain. 'Imagine how many goals they would have scored if I hadn't been there?' (An alternative occupation, for example, might be more of this! His track is Fire and Ice if you want to download for free!)
I must apply his Zen approach to my own mum-on-the-sidelines situation.
I must try to manage the mini heart attack that thumps in my chest every time a ten-foot ten-year-old sends a horrid plastic canon ball rocketing through the air at our son's head, or even worse ten feet above it but still inside the ridiculously-large goal, by sitting cross-legged on the wet, dog-poo grass and meditating. I must stop hoping the phone would ring and summons me to a press conference, or a breaking story.
I'm offering a free family day ticket to Kew Gardens for the first reader here who accurately guesses the result of the match between his little private school and the neighbouring little private school. I'm dreading when they play the local state school. That's where all where all the Really Good Footballers go.
And if you can help with further stress avoidance techniques from the sidelines, I'll buy you a cup of tea as well.