Fear of injury

batting

How fast are they bowling?

I’m frightened.

What if I get hit?

I don’t want to bat.

Questions and assertions, hushed and rushed. No.1 son and I are playing our second senior cricket match together. A well-built, ginger haired bowler has got me out caught and, following me, our middle order batting collapses. No.1 son has to pad-up in the changing room amidst angry, disappointed teammates who’ve been caught, bowled and generally humbled far too quickly.

I take him outside for some warm-up hits. “I’m frightened,” he insists. I side-step the statement and coax, reassure, boost, set him little targets but offer him no way out.

What sort of a father shepherds his 13 year old son on to face something the boy fears will hurt him? It’s just a game. Am I, like so many dads of sporty sons, projecting my hopes onto him? Is his fear an embarrassment to me at my cricket club? What entitles me, without using these words to him, to call on his bravery?

Thirteen years into the world of parenting, an environment I find perplexingly confusing, uncertainty abounding, I finally find myself in a place of clarity; where I possess deep knowledge. I know three things directly pertinent to this moment:
1) I know club cricket, particularly at this lowly third eleven level. It exists to blood (figuratively, of course) youngsters and allow the old or barely competent adult players a chance to live a few dreams. And this match is now so far out of our team’s reach that the opposition have time to ease up when a sub-five foot tall 13 year old comes in to bat.
2) I know no.1 son’s cricket. I coach his club team and I’ve seen him bat courageously against fast bowlers of his age. And I’ve seen his technique refined during a stint with the county coaches, so am confident he has the wherewithal to counter today’s bowling.
3) I know no.1 son’s attitude to risk. He has a very understandable aversion to challenges. He likes familiarity and control. Last autumn, we drove to a different town for his first practice session with the county coaches. By the time we parked in the school, he was begging me not to make him go. Gradually, I nudged him towards the sports hall and then he was gone. Two hours later and he was back, his pre-session wobble wiped from memory, happy and daring to be critical of the other boys’ cricket ability.

I also know that fear of injury, in fact the very real risk of being harmed, is part of the deal we strike when we play sport. We seek the exhilaration of performance, success or simply movement. We risk disappointment, defeat and physical damage. I doubt I have ever walked out to bat, hopeful of experiencing that commanding feeling of scoring runs, without the thought nagging away that the ball could hurt me. But with cricket, the sport I know well, I can rationalise it. With football, too. That’s not the case for me, though, with all sports.

For no.1 son’s eleventh birthday, Mother in the Middle decided that the prudent financial constraints of party planning should be loosened. It was no.1 son’s last with his junior school friends. We took eight boys to a factory basement that had been converted into a go-karting track.

With a brief induction and donning of safety gear, the boys began driving around the tight subterranean circuit. After a few practice laps, they began racing. I found the spectating experience excruciating. There were bumps and shunts that sent their bodies jerking. On and on they drove, finding tighter lines and pushing themselves closer to the tyre walls and each others’ cars. No.1 son was as enthralled as his pals. Long before the session ended, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to cope with a child pursuing motorsport.

Pen PitstopA few weeks ago, this thought recurred when no.2 son and the 1&onlyD went quad-biking with friends. I empathised with the couple of kids, too cautious to open up the bike’s throttle, who needed pushing up the steeper slopes. Those weren’t my kids. Mine became Penelope Pitstop and Mutley for that afternoon.

Back at the cricket ground, my warm-up with no.1 son is going well. He’s striking the ball crisply, while moaning that I don’t throw the ball as fast as the bowling. I leave him when my stint as umpire arrives. It’s not long before he, too, is in the middle. The opposition are cruising to an easy victory. The ginger haired quick bowler is rested and two slow bowlers are in action.

The fielders crowd around our shortest batsman. They’re cocky, expecting little from one so small. Second ball, he clips the ball past square leg, leaving a fielder sprawling and gathering a run. The field adjusts, players taking a few steps back, the banter drops. No.1 son defends well. I can see he’s enjoying himself. Two batting partners, older but not wiser, give their wickets away. The last pair are batting. No.1 son tries an ambitious shot, is bowled and the match is over.

The opposition shake hands or tap him on the helmet. Condescending, it looks, but that’s not how it’s meant. He’s unscathed, doesn’t mention being frightened now. But I know it will be there next time, and probably every time he plays, whether he chooses to mention it to me or not.

Postscript

As a treat, in between two days of secondary school entrance exams for the 1&onlyD, we take the kids to Jump Nation. Mother in the Middle has been there before and explains that she found it hard to watch: kids bouncing on trampolines in all directions – accidents waiting to happen.

Forty-five minutes into their hour long session and we look up from the cafe to see a Jump Nation steward carrying the 1&onlyD to the side. Mother in the Middle’s fear of her kids getting injured has been realised. The 1&onlyD has sprained her ankle. The swift and expert 1st aid minimise the damage, but still Mother has to carry daughter piggy-back to her exam table the next morning.

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13 Comments

Filed under parenting, young shoulders

13 responses to “Fear of injury

  1. I wonder if we fear what our children do more now than our parents did? Does more news and social media mean we are more aware of the accidents etc that happen in the world. It’s hard not to fear your babies hurting them self, my son fell off his scooter a few months back split his chip open and we ended up at A&E, not sure who is more worried now me or him. The joys of parenthood eh, thank you for linking up to #magicmoments

    • I do get the feeling that as our privileged part of the world has got safer, so people in general have become more anxious. It’s so hard to act rationally where your own children’s safety could be at stake. Thanks for visiting. I hope your son is back on his scooter.

  2. It’s great that he overcame the fear of being hurt and was able to enjoy himself, I’m sure he also appreciated it as he watched them all take a step back after his first bat. I hope the 1&onlyD isn’t in too much pain with her ankle. Popping in from Magic Moments.

    • It will be interesting to see how my son reacts in the future when I remind him of this day. The 1&onlyD is well on the mend and is even talking about going to gymnastics tonight. Thanks for popping in.

  3. I think all parents encourage children to try out new things, with the knowledge that once you are over the fear of the unknown you’ll probably really enjoy it. Most of my childhood injuries were made away from the sports field…and there were a lot!! #PoCoLo

  4. My children have been lucky so far injury wise but the fear that they will hurt themselves never goes away. #familyfriday

  5. Papa_Tont

    What a really interesting post. When I was growing up I played Regional hockey and county rugby and wouldn’t let my parents come to a single match for fear of how they would respond to what was going on on the pitch. If ever I wanted to something slightly risky, my parents wouldn’t know anything about it until I was regaling them with stories about it afterwards. Being a dad of 2, I now know why I didn’t let them. The thought of letting my children enter an arena of potential harm goes against every instinct I have. The thought of increasing percentages of bones breaking, skin bleeding or worse fills me with dread and if they insist on doing it, I quite often find myself becoming a hands on parent. I suppose it doesn’t help that they are only 6 and 2, and I’m sure I’ll relax more as they get older….I hope, but letting them take risks is definitely something I’m trying hard to do.

    • Your parents must have missed out on a lot of anxiety, but also a great deal of pleasure, by not seeing you in action on the hockey and rugby fields.

      What’s interesting is how often my perceptions of risk and those of my kids don’t match up. The result is a lot of steering them away from some things and reassuring them about others. Thanks for the comment and visit.

  6. This post follows on really nicely from the previous one linked to PoCoLo. It is hard to try and encourage your kids when you have a touch of the fear factor too – but not let them show that! I am glad they overcame theirs. Thank you for linking to PoCoLo 🙂

  7. Really interesting post. It got me thinking. D had an awful fall of her trike last week, nose injury and bruised and, at the moment, she hates the trike that she used to love so much. Accidents happen and it’s now a case of managing that fear and reassurance that it’s very unlikely to happen again, autism is playing its anxious part though.
    I hope your D’s ankle is now recovered and that your son is still enjoying his cricket.
    Thanks for linking up with #SSAmazingAchievements

  8. This is an ironic post for me, my son had a bad incident at soft play, well two and is now scared. I think accidents will always happen and I’m not sure who has the greatest fear. The child or the parent. I’m glad you pushed your son to play, it will help in the long run I’m sure #SSAmazingAchievements

  9. My son is only 2.5y and doesn’t really have any fear – I have more than him! If he hurts himself doing something, he’ll come for a cuddle and then go right back to it. I’m sure he will feel fear at some point though. #magicmoments

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