As the end of the summer term approaches, the minds of parents with primary school children turn to Sports' Day. Most schools seem to have one in some guise or other and parents appear to be drawn to them by a well acknowledged sense of compulsion even though very few will confess to wanting to go.
I have been to 10 sports' days so far (obviously not including the ones in which I participated as a child.) And if my calculations are correct, I have another 7 to go which is a somewhat daunting prospect. As a complete aside, I once calculated how many more days I would have to do the walk to school, filled myself with horror and have tried to resist the urge to make similar calculations since.
My enjoyment of sports' day seems to depend on which child it is that is participating. My eldest two were keen and involved and relatively successful. Consequently, it was fun to watch them. I could cheer for them and their friends in the knowledge that they would be placed and would leave with plenty of stickers and a sense of having achieved something. I could bask in their reflected glory. It doesn't matter how many times the Headmaster says that each child has a talent and that it's not the winning it's the taking part. Everyone, including the children, know that it is all about winning and succeeding is immeasurably important.
This year was no different. At the Key Stage 2 day ( formerly known as Juniors), my key stage two child romped in first in her events and celebrated without any hint of modesty or decorum with lots of air punching and chanting of " I am amazing!" This really isn't my style, although it is clearly hers, and so I tried to ignore her extravagant display. However, back in Key Stage 1 ( formerly known as Infants), my youngest was entering his first event. He was worried and looked nervous. He has a history of coming last having had a couple of goes at cross country in the winter. And now he knows enough about it to know that this isn't something to be proud of. He came second to last in his running and whilst he smiled as he crossed the line, he held on to me longer than was necessary before he went back to his place. It broke my heart. I can think of little worse than not being able to win on a day that is all about winning.
But more difficult than seeing the children deal with their sporting prowess or lack of it, is seeing the parents in their race. Despite all the guff about it being the taking part that counts, the parents have to do a straight running race. No mucking about with eggs and spoons or three legged races with their kids. This is all about competition. All those issues that have been niggling in the playground all year are dealt with in that ten seconds on the track. This year there were heats, so keen was everyone to run. The determination to win at all costs causes casualties and woe betide anyone who gets in the way of the flying elbows. And that's just the men. The mothers' race has to be seen to be believed. Needless to say, I do not participate. I was pregnant a fair few times and then had preschoolers to look after and now I declare that I am too old. But actually, I am just not competitive enough to want to have a go and risk life and limb.
And so it is all over for another year. My youngest came second in the hopping race (although there was more scampering than hopping) so his day was made and I can put the photos in the album and then forget about it all for another year.