We’ve just started going to football and just a couple of weeks in, I’ve had a terrible realisation – I am the soccer mum!

Having sidestepped some of the other pitfalls of modern parenting, I honestly didn’t see this coming. And in the past couple of weeks I have noticed myself shouting all manner of ridiculous instructions to small son, to the extent that the coach is gently nudging me away from the sidelines and upstairs to the viewing area.

Even I don’t understand the stupid things I’ve been yelling, and the over-the-top gesticulation is certainly wasted on my son, who could not pay less attention to me if he tried. I even found myself on the pitch the other day.

“Don’t handle the ball!”

“Give and go!”

“You’re going THAT way!”

However, although I need to tone it down, I’m not ashamed. I’m not ashamed because at least this passion means that I am watching and getting involved. One of the saddest and most prolific sights at this kind of children’s sporting event or even a kid’s party is a line of 20 parents with their phones in front of their faces.

I’ve seen children do great things on the pitch and then look for a reaction from their parents. Nothing. They missed it.

On a rare occasion, small son got a pat on the back from the coach – just a quick “well done” and a pat on the head. I saw it and small son and I shared a happy, knowing look. If I’d been on Facebook, I would have missed it and he wouldn’t have been able to prove that it had happened.

Last week, I saw the football come to rest on a mum’s foot. A boy ran over to retrieve it, and waited for her to gently kick it back. But she had no idea about any of this as she was on Whatsapp. I could see the disappointment on his face.

People are busy, I do get that. It’s not realistic to say that you shouldn’t check your emails now and then. Sometimes work calls and it’s a good opportunity to have a quick look when you’re not driving. But this is an epidemic. It mainly looks like Facebook too, It’s almost a default setting for people who have forgotten how to share these vital childhood experiences – not just with each other, but with other parents too.

It’s not a new thing. I remember my own dad avidly supporting me during my swimming lessons (and to be fair, it’s not terribly exciting watching a group of children swim up and down, up and down and up and down), amid a sea of newspapers. The fact that he was interested, I think, is part of the reason I will love swimming all these years later.

So, if you have to take your child to something, why not actually be there? You might even enjoy it.

One thought on “Put the phone down!

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