I’m sitting in the dark of the study on my own, a little after 9pm on Sunday night, contemplating the remaining few hours of the weekend. It’s tempting to say “we had no weekend again”, but of course that’s not entirely true. Our weekend just didn’t stop.
A little after 8am on Saturday morning we got the kids out of bed, and headed off for the local football club, to watch our youngest take part in the annual tournament. Just for the benefit of anybody from the US reading this, football is what you call soccer. She played for the boys team on Saturday morning, and the girls team this morning. That’s right – she has played for both teams this year.
It’s interesting – watching boys and girls play football – especially before they become teenagers. The boys are all about themselves. Their concept of anybody else on the pitch is extremely limited – which I’m guessing makes coaching them to play positionally something of a nightmare. You only have to watch a kids game in the park to see them charging around after the ball like a swarm of ants. The girls on the other hand seem to play for each other, rather than themselves – passing, running into space, and supporting each other.
Our youngest played wonderfully on both Saturday and Sunday. It was perhaps the best I had ever seen her play, and the coach reflected that afterwards when we met him while leaving the ground. Given theÂ start she had in lifeÂ (she could hardly walk at three years old – a story I have told elsewhere in the blog), it’s miraculous really. Her team didn’t win anything at the tournament – if anything she and a friend carried their six-a-side team through the matches they played today – but she still went home happy. I saw her embrace one of her team mates after narrowly losing a match, saying “Don’t worry – at least we won one of ourÂ games today!” (which was better than the boys, who gave up in several of their games).
The afternoons and evenings of both Saturday and Sunday were taken up with our younger girls performingÂ in anÂ annual dance show. Ever since they were tiny they have attended dance classes – partly related to the coordination issues our youngest had early on. From modern dance, to ballet, and street,Â the show is always spectacular, and this year was no exception. Quite how the teachers manage to control so many children is something of a mystery – at least to me.
The shows didn’t start without a little mayhem along the way. After football on Saturday, while running our washing machine with load after load while the kids were at the theater, I received a panicked phone call. Half an hour later I arrived at the back stage door with red helium balloons, and safety pins. I didn’t ask what they were for – I just arrived with them, and was whisked in the inner sanctum of the theater by smiling faces to deliver them to a wardrobe malfunction the audience would never discover.
I got to see the final performance this year – quietly arriving with my mother-in-law and eldest daughter half an hour before curtain up. We found our seats near the back of the audience, and patiently waited. The leader of the company took to the stage moments before the start, and went through the usual requests for mobile phones to be switched off, and for no photography (which was met with murmurings of discontent from the usual minority of parents who typically never think before sharing pictures of other people’s children across the internet).
We were also told the show was being recorded, so DVDs would be available afterwards.
You might think this would cause people to be quiet. You would be wrong. The people directly behind us whisperedÂ throughout much of theÂ performance. A family in the far corner of the theater ate sweets from crinkly wrappers throughout. Just as the show started, a small child began crying louder and louder – they actually re-started the first number after one of her parents carried her out of the theater. I just sat there wondering why some people do it. If you know your child is scared of the dark, why take them to a theater, where you know the lights will be dimmed? Also, when the entire rest of the audience is silent, why munch like pigs on sweets for an hour ? Don’t even get me started on the people that had to get up – from the middle of their rows of seats – to go to the toilet in the middle of the show.
Thankfully the children performing – including my own – allowed you to forget about the few thoughtless, ignorant, or downright rude people in the audience. The smiles and pride of several hundred children being given the chance to perform under the lights, in front of an audience ofÂ their families and friends was spectacular.
Perhaps the most poignant performance of the show was a routineÂ involving the youngest group of children holding balloons, and dancing to a “99 Red Balloons” cover by “Sleeping at Last”. It ended with one of the graduating girls from the oldest class – that had been with the company since she was four years old – appearing from the shadows at the end to join them in the center of the stage. She didn’t dance – she just held her balloon and watched them dance slowly around her. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.
While helping the dance teachers load their kit into the back of their cars after the show, we were invited back to a barbecue to celebrate the closing of the show, but had to decline – we had already agreed to take my other half’s Mum out for dinner. In some ways I was happy we couldn’t go – our eldest had already told me twenty times that she was hungry, and she’s coeliac, which makes most gatherings pretty much impossible for her – and my other half’s Mum wouldn’t have known anybody either. Three was a part of me that wished we could have gone though – over the years I’ve come to know a numberÂ of the people involved in the dance shows, and think the world of them.
As we walked home from the pub after finally eating late this evening, I wondered if anybody else gets quietly depressed with always doing things for others, and never seeming to find time to do anything they might want to. Of course you never speak out, because all parents suffer the same lot in silence. Very few people get to do what they want – and those that do are invariably labelled as thoughtless, self absorbed, or self interested by those around them. It would be nice to do what we want at least sometimes though.