Not being there


The text from the under 12s cricket coach arrived as I was going to bed. ‘Sorry for short notice.. would [no.2 son] like a game tomorrow in the indoor league?’ I was going away early the next morning, so I handed the aptly named Mother in the Middle the task of liaison between son and coach. This was duly done and no.2 son lined up (for a second time) as a last minute selection for an indoor cricket match with boys up to three years his senior.

I spent the following day in London and was arriving by train in Oxford at about the time the match started 150 miles north. I wondered if no.2 son would be batting or bowling first. I knew he would be displaying his jaw-jutting determined face and keeping his thoughts to himself. Throughout the evening my mind wandered to that sports hall near home.

It was nearly nine o’clock when the call came in:


“Yes, it’s me. How are you? How was it?”


“Did you have a good time?”

“Yes. We won. I took four wickets in an over.”

“What was that?”

“We won.”

“You took how many wickets?”

Sport is important to my kids. Their sport is important to me – I write a blog about it – and I watch a great deal of it. But I cannot be there for every performance.

The 1&onlyD’s exploits are the least spectated. Fifty weeks each year she is practising for a single competition. Some weeks, during her four hours of training she will achieve a new manoeuvre. Backwards walkover on the beam, upstart on the bars, aerial on the floor – the likelihood is that the breakthrough moment won’t be witnessed by Mother in the Middle or me.

I am on the touchline for the majority of no.1 son’s Sunday morning club football matches, enjoying his poise and ability as an attacking midfielder. The higher quality football that he plays, that has helped develop his nimble footwork, comes at school, where he plays alongside lads from the local professional clubs’ academies. I have only ever seen one of those matches in its entirety and just the latter stages of his school team’s four cup finals in two years.

At no.1 son’s age, when I played sports for my school (mostly cricket, but a little football) there was usually only one parent watching. My Dad managed to manipulate his work diary so he had meetings in the locality that finished in time for a trip to the match. Or he was prepared to give up a weekend morning to watch my hesitant performances.

I’m not sure exactly what I thought about my Dad’s attendance. He was well-liked by my friends, so I wasn’t embarrassed. It was completely in keeping with his interest in my school career – I remember reading him my history essays. It was, I could tell from the absence of any other parents, unusual. A recent comment made by my Mum put it in context. My Grandfather had never been to see my Dad play any sport when he was at school. My Dad learned the value of being there from his own father’s absence.

The matches I miss and the stories about them that my children tell me, strengthen my commitment to be there when circumstances allow. I hope my children understand that and my Dad knows what a fine habit he has passed on to me.

On the night no.2 son took four wickets in an over, I had the satisfaction of being with three friends with whom I have played cricket for over 25 years. There could be no better audience to level a complaint about what their company had kept me from.



Filed under parenting, touchline zoo

21 responses to “Not being there

  1. Tim

    A shame to have missed this occasion but you are there for so many others that I’m sure your son will view your absence with regret rather than complaint. It looks like you’ve followed a wonderful example from your father – mine was very similar and has left me equally determined to be as present as often as I can be for all these little moments, whether sporting or otherwise.

    • Thanks Tim. It surprised me to begin with how important it was to my children that one or other (or both) of Mother in the Middle or I attended. Surprising, but reassuring.

  2. suzanne3childrenandit

    This brought a lump to my throat. You sound like a wonderful dad and I think our presence at these events speaks volumes to our children. Doesn’t make you feel any less bad when you miss just one match though, does it? And it could be THE one! I go to watch my children play or perform because I know it demonstrates love. My husband’s parents didn’t go to anything (but then they did have 8 children!) so it’s something I’ve had to teach him. It means so much to a child, doesn’t it?

  3. I’m glad that your dad passed on such a good habit that you’ve kept up. Parenting often boils down to deciding what we do or don’t want to do with our own kids based upon what our folks did #thetruthabout

  4. sarahmo3w

    Well done to you for being there so often. I hate missing any of my kids’ sporting exploits, but it’s inevitable I will miss some of them. My son’s football team must be one of the most unsupported in the league and it makes me sad that parents don’t see watching their sons play league games as a priority. I wonder if they would have finished a bit higher up the table if they had consistent support like all the other teams.

  5. It’s hard to be there for everything, especially when you have more than one child to co-ordinate. We have managed okay so far, although sports teams don’t yet feature (my sons swim and the oldest is still too young for the team), but I know in the next year or so we will need to start to co-ordinate more activities… When they do have something on, it’s really important to them that one of us is there x

    • Sara, Sarah, Suzanne
      Thank you for your kind comments. It’s only fair to let you know that just after drafting this piece, I missed a match because I had a hangover. Not so good, I know. Best wishes all.

  6. I think it’s great that you try to attend so much, I do think it makes a big difference and then your kids understand more when you can’t make it. Having said that I was LOL-ing at your comment above about not making a match because of your hangover, wahhhhh!!

  7. This is such a lovely read! A father’s view. My father was never in any event in my school. When he was there he was drunk so I dont want him there anyways.

    I think that it is okay for you to miss some and see some. Its a balance. They know you more than anyone and they know that if you can be there you will and that’s awesome.


  8. This brought tears to my eyes, though I will be honest I haven’t a clue what four wickets in an over means! I think its OK to miss some things if you have to and the crucial thing here is that your son was excited to tell you and speak about it. So although you didn’t witness you still know, if that makes sense?

    You also made me remember my dad reading my history essays and pulling my grammar to pieces, then debating with me (and losing)


    • Laura, your story off debating history with your father, and him losing, is very like my older son and me. Great stuff!

      Anyway, about 4 wickets in an over…


  9. My son has been part of a football team of one sort or another since he was 5 and now, at 14, plays for 3 teams. I relish the occasional weekends off he has, but am so grateful for what the sport gives him. 9 times out of 10, me or his dad or both of us are there, and even as a now sometimes uncommunicative teenager, I know our presence is important to him.

    • Caz, you really must have put in some hours on the touchline. Well done. I’m intrigued (because we’re nearly there) how an uncommunicative teenager lets you know it’s important for you to be there. Thanks for reading.

  10. This has to be one of my favourite posts from you 🙂 You are a wonderfully supportive father and I can just feel the annoyance of not being able to be there. So good that you had someone to vocalise it – and who would understand how you feel. Thank you for linking to #PoCoLo 🙂

  11. As a divorced dad my boys live with their mother so I miss quite a bit of their achievements but it makes those I am there for that much more special I think, missing one or two will not affect much as long as they know you are there for them as often as you can be.

    Oh and 4 wickets in an over is brilliant stuff 🙂

    • Ashley, that’s an excellent point. ‘Not being there’ is for lots of dads, for reasons beyond their control, the norm, not as for me, the exception. I am fortunate (and need to be reminded from time to time.) Thanks for visiting.

  12. Being part of a Co parent set up I miss out on so many things and it is truly heartbreaking especially when you know taht there has been a great thing from it. I try to remember the things I am there for. And from that k ow I’m doing my best. So far the boys haven’t really noticed yet which is good. Thanks for linking up with us on the #bigfatlinky

  13. Ian

    Awesome, sounds like we could do with him out in the West Indies!

    My dad always made time to come and watch me play, but as I got older I used to get distracted by him being there. I knew he’d always come if I asked, which I always valued.

    It’s the opposite with my son. When he comes to watch me play anything, I’m usually inspired by him being there.

    As my son now starts to play more sport, be interesting to see if he likes having me along or not.

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