Friday night marks the chance to downshift and make the Kafkaesque change into my more important role as a father and husband.
On second thought, it is probably not that much of a metamorphosis. There is an instinctive part of my work that makes me model my relationship with my pupils as that of a father and his children. Certainly, I am keenly aware that I am the sole adult male figure in the life of many children. I don’t take that responsibility lightly but those thoughts are for another day, another blog.
It is the weekend and the weekend belongs to family.
Tonight, as I have done at least twice a week for the past 12 years, my only son and I will load up our 7-seater car with studded boots, rain proof jackets, water bottles, power snacks and head to North London. It is football night. On the way we will pick up other players and their fathers: ‘Big Al’, ‘One Eye Dave’ and ‘Princess Pete’. The car will rumble with the sound of banter and good-natured teasing. We will joke about Big Al’s wife’s cooking, One Eye’s age and Princess Pete’s inability to sit on both arse cheeks because he attended a posh school as a teenager. There may be a comment or two about my driving and certainly huge cheers when I finally manoeuvre the 7-seater into a parking space after three attempts.
Between us we have spent 6 hours a week, stretching far back into the last century, watching our sons grow up together on the sporting field.
When the boys were younger, their boisterous chatter would fill the car. As they have become older the sounds have been replaced by the dads’ own banter and the boys have resulted to putting on their IPod earphones and staring silently out of the window. Males. We don’t have to say a word to bond, isn’t that right boys? Boys?
Tonight is the Cup Final. The Super Bowl of youth football. The boys have played several teams in a knock-out format to get to this point. It is as important to the dads as it is to our sons. Yet there is an added poignancy to the game as it will mark the penultimate time we will make this journey together. The boys are on the eve of leaving school and entering the world of work or college. Soon youth football will be no more. It will become a memory of their childhood, a lintel that underpins their sense of teamwork, fairness, work ethic in the wider world.
So tonight I find myself with a range of emotions; excitement, nostalgia, dread, thankfulness. Since his 5th birthday I have been able to instil a love and deep respect of sport in my son. I will be thinking of the first time I taught him to kick a ball. I will recall consoling him after bitter defeat; of dancing across the pitch with him after epic victories.
It will be a rite of passage. I will pass my son onto society, having done what I can to help build his character. I shall sit at home on Friday night hereafter, waiting for the day years from now when my son, God willing, has a son of his own. And as soon as that future grandchild can walk, I will teach him to kick a ball.
Good luck tonight boys. Enjoy the match. I will.
Keep the Faith