We all know that parenting is political. It starts very young. We’re either the smug ones feeling proud of ourselves that our babies sleep through the nights, or the parents seething at someone else whose kids will eat anything. And it never stops.
Whose child walks first? Is one school better than another? Is one kid on a better reading book than another?
And as they get older… Is your kid the one who gets picked for the school team? Or not?
From where I’m standing, as the parent of teenagers, there’s no showing off and no resentment on my part. It is what it is. Some kids get picked. Some don’t. Some have natural ability. Some don’t. Some give their all in training. Some don’t.
But there is a delicate balancing act for parents. Because kids take sport very much to heart.
For the last couple of years, my younger son, some of his friends and A LOT of kids from the surrounding area (we’re talking three counties here), have been training with the local Premiership rugby club. Of course, the dream is to play for the club. The reality is, maybe one of them will make it all the way. Maybe none of them will. But it is an honour to even train with them.
We all know that, at the end of this season, a lot of the players will be cut. But nobody knows how many. I’ve heard rumours that they will only take 40 players in total (there may be 300 or so of them currently). Nobody knows who will stay or who will go. Nobody knows when the cut will happen.
And the boys (and their parents) are getting jittery.
Ask any of the kids, and they will say that they ‘know’ they are going to get cut. They will also give you the names of a couple of their friends who they think will stay.
The reality is, most of the kids will be cut. We have accepted my son’s fate. He has enjoyed his time training with the club. Admittedly, he hasn’t always been able to commit 100%. School sport and football can sometimes get in the way. As can injury. Being cut wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
But what if…
Over the last few months, there have been a couple of games played. My son wasn’t picked for the first game. Or the second.
The players were apparently picked at random. It appeared they may have literally been picked alphabetically. But some kids (and parents) were getting edgy after the second game. Would their child get a chance to play? A chance to shine? A chance to show what they can do before the cut?
Then there was a tournament, that a lot of the kids (including my son) played in.
And then my son was picked for a tournament against outside teams. But was he ‘picked’ or was it just another alphabetical/ random thing? None of his friends were picked. But some of them had played in games that he hadn’t been picked for. And maybe there were other games and other tournaments that we don’t know about that they were playing in?
You can see how for kids who live for sport, it can get pretty stressful. And you can see that it will get pretty stressful for any parents supporting those kids – and picking up the pieces when things don’t go their way.
I had to tell one of the other parents about the tournament, because it meant my son no longer needed a lift to yet another sporting event. She immediately replied that her son was worried that he hadn’t been picked. I reminded her of the game that her son had been picked for that my son hadn’t been picked for. And they both felt reassured.
But I knew of one more friend who would be upset about it. Was it best for me to come clean straight away and tell them about the tournament? Because they would definitely find out at some point. Or would it be best for me to wait until they found out?
The mystery surrounding the whole thing means that none of us should read anything into a child being picked or not picked. But it inevitably puts people on edge. And that’s why it’s all so political.
I didn’t pick my son for the team, so why do I still feel like I need to confess?