The weather forecast for yesterday was bad. Very bad. And my younger son had a rugby tournament. We got up in the morning and it was grey and had clearly rained a lot in the night. But it wasn’t raining.
It waited until just as the tournament started.
It was a small tournament at one of the local private schools, with eight teams playing in total. The host school fielded two or three teams and the biggest team in town fielded three teams. And our boys rocked up with just eight players for an 8-a-side competition.
My boy is pretty good at rugby. He runs fast, he passes, he supports and he can score tries. He still hasn’t really come to terms with tackling and will often shy away from it, preferring to let one of the other boys dive in. He lost a bit of confidence last season, but was boosted last week by scoring tries and winning games.
The team went into the tournament with their heads held high.
They won their first game easily – 4-1. And I’m pleased to say my son scored two of the tries. That’s just the sort of confidence boost they need. They won their next game 3-0.
But they were getting cold and wet. They were soaked to the skin and covered in mud with their hair plastered to their heads and dripping down their faces. It actually wasn’t that cold – about 11 degrees with very little wind. In rugby terms, that’s practically boiling. But when you’re soaked to the skin with no prospect of getting warm and dry, you start to feel it.
One of the coaches had the good sense to bring a couple of towels along. They rubbed the boys’ hands and legs and hair, to dry them off a bit and try to get some feeling back. Between games they just took it in turns to warm their hands up. Some of the boys dealt with the cold better than others. My son was struggling.
They went into their third game – their toughest. They won 1-0, but it was a hard. Seconds before the end my son went in for a tackle. He went in too high – it was a foul. Both boys went down, my son got hurt – and colder, wetter and muddier than ever. He started crying. With no subs, he had no choice but to play on.
After the game he cried and he shouted. He just wanted to go home. I was desperately trying to warm him up, dry him, get him to eat and drink.
I’ve seen this behaviour before. It’s not bad behaviour or tantrums or attention seeking. It’s hunger.
Getting hungry and thirsty hits him hard. But it hits him so hard he doesn’t know that’s what’s wrong with him. His emotions are all over the place. He is completely irrational.
And as he gets bigger, he is harder to calm down. My husband blames me, he thinks I mollycoddle him too much. But I don’t. One of the things I like about rugby is it’s very acceptable for parents to cuddle their kids, shove food into their mouths, warp them in coats and fleeces, do their laces up for them – do whatever they need – and nobody thinks either the kid or the parent is wrong.
The other kids and the coaches were brilliant in supporting my son and me. They all said such nice things to him about how well he’d played – while encouraging him to eat and drink. I had a bottle of Lucozade and a cereal bar at his mouth trying to get him to take them, but he just wouldn’t. He wouldn’t change into a dry top either – he just wanted to go home.
The other boys were on the pitch ready for the semi-final when the coach and I finally pulled his wet top off him and forced him into a dry one.
The semi-final was a hard game. The boys played well, but they weren’t getting the chances. We were at the point when we were wondering who would go through if it was 0-0 when…. Seconds from the end, my boy got the ball, headed for the try line – and he scored!
My boy, the emotional wreck, had got them into the final with seconds to spare.
The kid who had been screaming and shouting and crying was the hero.
Finally, we managed to force a KitKat and a few mouthfuls of Lucozade into him. His colour changed, his face changed, his whole demeanour changed. After one KitKat, he happily ate another one. My boy was back – and ready for the final!
It was another tough game – against one of the host school’s teams. We really, really wanted to win.
Is it wrong that I wanted our little team with hardly enough players to beat the posh kids? Because I did. I wanted them to beat them at their own game.
And two minutes from the end, they did!
All the wet and the cold was forgotten when the team got their hands on that trophy and their medals.
I am so proud of my boy and the way he pushed through his discomfort and his upset to win for his team.