“I Don’t Want to Play Cricket, Dad…”

I’m sorry about this. Feel free to never read the blog again. But I’m going be serious this week. Yep, I know you come here for five minutes’ mild amusement. Sorry. It won’t happen again.

But just for this week I’m going to desert Ben’s sarcasm, the intricacies of married life and my pathetic failure to cope with carrier bags costing 5p. I’m going to offer some parenting advice.

Two weeks ago a fellow-blogger asked me a simple question. What have been your most rewarding experiences as a Dad?

Blimey. Where to start? Could I finish inside 4,000 words? And what would Jessica say if she didn’t have the most entries on the list?

I debated the question with the dog as we marched along the cliff-top. I went home and started my answers. Ben was straightforward: Jessica was a collage of memories. And Tom was much more complicated…

As regular readers know, Tom’s at Cambridge. I’ll never forget the moment he opened his offer letter. Or taking him for the first time. But the single most rewarding moment as Tom’s Dad? They don’t even come close.

When I was young I played cricket. I played a lot, and to a high standard. I naturally assumed my sons would follow in my path. My bat was in the wardrobe waiting for them.

And Tom tried. Bless him he tried so hard. Hours of practice in the garden, but he didn’t bat much, he didn’t bowl at all and he fielded in the long grass. Cricket was never going to be Tom’s game. He knew it and I knew it. But we carried on pretending.

Until Tom came to me one day. I think he was 13. I wish I’d made a note of the date. “Dad,” he said.

“What is it, Tom?”

“Can I say something to you?”

“Yes, of course.”

“I don’t want to play cricket any more.”

“OK. So if you don’t want to play cricket any more, what do you want to do?”

“I want to design Formula One cars.”

And with that my son disappeared to his bedroom. He taught himself CAD and CFD programmes. (If you don’t know what CFD is, it’s computational fluid dynamics.) Interestingly, that was around the time school told us he was falling behind in Physics. They couldn’t grasp that he was so far in front he was bored to death.

“What’s wrong with the computer?” I asked my wife one evening.

“Tom says he’s running a programme,” she replied.

Tom’s ‘programme’ ran for a week. No-one could use the computer while it completed his work. He’d loaded the car he’d designed into a virtual wind tunnel and asked the family computer to run the simulation. It was, as they say, a big ask.

And it was also when we began to believe something special was going on in the top bedroom.

I’m writing this on the weekend of the Mexican Grand Prix. If you watched it, you’ll have seen a part that Tom designed going round at 200mph. For a student, that’s a remarkable achievement.

But it’s nowhere near as remarkable as a 13 year old boy going to his cricket mad Dad and telling him that he doesn’t want to play anymore.

Nine years on, I’m still full of admiration: how long did it take him to pluck up the courage to speak to me? And he taught me a lesson as well – one that applies to all parents.

When you see the light of conviction burning in your child’s eyes you have one job – and one job only. You say ‘go for it’ – and do everything you can to help.

Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it – and you’d like something light and moderately humorous to read – you can buy the ‘Best Dad I Can Be’ sample book with 27 of my favourite posts covering all the years I’ve been writing: it’s all of 99p on your Kindle. Alternatively the first chronological book, ‘Half Dad Half Fish’ which covers the time when the children were 9, 7 and 4 is available here

Comments

  1. This is a great post, Mark. Thank you for sending it to us. Often our humour and snark make difficult subject more accessible. But, sometimes, just sometimes we have to play it straight. Good for you.

    • Thanks very much for that, Mel – glad you like it. The response to this one has been so good that I’ve spent the weekend wondering if I shouldn’t abandon my ‘five minutes mild amusement’ approach more often and take myself a little more seriously. Would be interesting to see the response via ‘Post 40…’
      All the best and hope you’re keeping well

  2. This is such a lovely post Mark, and shows just how important it is to make the time to look out for the non verbal clues, as well as listening to our children.

    You must be so proud of Tom, and I bet he is also very proud of how supportive his parents are. Aww, you’ve given me the warm and fuzzies 🙂

    • Yes, he is proud; he’s absolutely determined to repay everything we’ve done for him and he says I’ll go to one the best old people’s homes in the area…
      Seriously, I think I’ve made plenty of mistakes as a parent – but that might just be a day I got it right. And yes, immensely proud of him: if only I could understand what he’s saying when he talks about engineering…

  3. This is wonderful, Mark!
    You’re obviously very proud of your son and rightly so.
    My ex husband was a cricketer, also to a high standard (he’s played local and county) He lived and breathed it and so he presumed it was a given that his boys would also play, which they did. The youngest stopped playing because he told his dad it wasn’t his thing but the eldest still plays the odd game in London. It take guts to go against the grain but in my opinion no child should have to do something just to please their parents and I did see a lot of that in my time as a cricket widow. Boys wanted to please their dads more than they wanted to play. Cricket is more than just a game, it’s a way of life and if their heart isn’t in it, what’s the point?

    • Your last sentence is absolutely right: play cricket seriously and you’re gone for the day. That’s what I was so proud of Tom for – he had the courage to go for what he wanted, not what I wanted him to do. In many ways I have the same debate with him now; when he leaves uni he won’t earn as much as he would if he’d gone into the City – but he’s very bright and committed and ultimately he’ll get to the top. Thanks for the comment – hope all is good with you and the family.

  4. A very inspiring post Mark and one I completely agree with you on. Our son is also 13 years old and we’re listening to everything he’s saying. He wants to be a scientist. He doesn’t know what type yet but we’re supporting him on his quest. Oh, and he said that he didn’t want to do dance and theatre anymore. Or hockey. Or play the piano. Or the guitar. As you can imagine, we tried a variety of things…! He’s happy with just doing karate, playing the drums and going to the Boy Scouts of America (even though we’re British/German) and doing a bit of child modelling from time to time. A bit. So that is what we do!

    • I think 13 is something of a pivotal age. We always took the view that they could do whatever they wanted up to 13; try everything. But around the age of 13 I think it’s time to say, “I think I’m quite good at this” and start to specialise a little. Jessica was the sporty one of our three, and it was around that time she started to take her hockey seriously. Went on to play at county level & still plays at university. Thanks as always for the comment – and sorry to be late replying (to yours and everyone else’s). Family life has been a little fraught this week…

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