Q: My wife is convinced that I should be spending more time teaching our 4 year old son 'traditional male team sports' such as football, cricket and rugby so that he 'fits in'. I can see the value in doing this, but I grew up doing sports that were less traditional (sailing, tennis, rock climbing) and so I struggle finding the desire passion to teach him. I also know that if I were to get him involved with these sports as part of a regular team that I would struggle to connect with any of the Dad's and that he (and I) could likely be overwhelmed by the competitiveness of the other kids and their Dads.
Should I just force myself to teach him stuff that doesn't interest me for his sake? Or should I just suck it up and pretend I know everything about the '82 Welsh Rugby team when asked by the other Dads? I worry if I don't that he won't be able to fit into these social situations the same way that I can't…and my Dad before me.
Answer by Tim Mungeam
Like so much to do with parenthood, it’s all a matter of balance. On the one hand, it’s understandable that you want to stay true to yourself and get your kids involved in the sports that you grew up with. On the other hand, however, it’s part of a dad’s role to introduce his child to new experiences and also show him (or her) that trying new things – even things that you are apprehensive, even scared, of doing – is part of life. For you the challenge may be to steel yourself and just get stuck in getting to know the other dads in the park.
Of course there will always be competitive dads but don’t be fooled by the stereotypes. Lots of dads worry that they won’t fit in with other groups of men, but whilst it may not be the best idea to turn up with your homemade hummus and fairy cakes on day one, they often discover that they have more in common with the other dads than they expected. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be true for you too. A little bit of homework won’t do any harm, but don’t stress about it – an occasional scan of the newspaper back pages will give you all you need. And as you sit there with your coffee, you can tell your wife that you’re doing research!
As for your son, four is still young and there’s plenty of time for him to try all kinds of things before he settles on the things he likes. So take every opportunity you can – you don’t have to try them all or be an expert at any – it may be a cliché but showing him that playing the game and trying your best really is what the fun is all about. Through it all, you may find a sport – whether it’s tennis, triathlons, or tiddlywinks – where you and your son can both be yourselves and really enjoy together.
> Back to Panel of Experts