The week before last, it was the boys’ sports day at school.
As Isaac is in reception, this was his first ever official sports day (although he did briefly feature in the pre-school version last summer), and in typical Isaac fashion he didn’t want to take part.
Now, when children don’t want to do something, their reactions usually range from eventually accepting the inevitable (‘if you don’t do it, you’ll get into trouble’), to the ever-popular strategy of bawling their fucking eyes out, like that has ever made the slightest bit of difference in the history of parenting.
Isaac, on the other hand, chose to take his protest to the next level – nudity, and he was still stark-bollock naked, screaming on the floor, two minutes before we were due to leave the house.
However, despite the obvious stress and upset this caused, as leaving for the school run always seems to be a rushed affair (I once asked the boys to start getting ready at 6.30am, just to prove my point, and we still ended up forcing shoes on and yanking Isaac’s hair into something remotely resembling a ponytail as we flew out of the door at 8.40am), I was secretly quite pleased with his tantrum.
The reason for this, was that for the first time since Ollie started school in 2014, I was unable to attend sports day myself (due to the fact my already sparse annual leave is rapidly running out), so my mum had driven over to watch Isaac in that morning’s ‘infant sports day’, while my wife was free in the afternoon to watch Ollie in the junior events.
Now, you might think that Isaac throwing a fucking wobbly would be best kept to ourselves, and that I might be embarrassed for my mum to see such behaviour from her youngest grandson; but he always behaves impeccably for her, and I don’t think until that point she had ever truly believed us when we told her (frequently), what a little shitbag he can be – so it was nice for her to see the real Isaac in all his hairy, naked, screaming glory.*
(*when I say ‘hairy’, I do of course mean his long hair, rather than any bodily fur – he’s not that feral).
Had it been solely down to me, I may very well have dragged a completely naked Isaac to school by his ponytail, just to teach him a lesson. Fortunately, however, my mum was more level-headed, and did a far better job of reasoning with him (apparently, in these situations, my tactic of growling ‘put your fucking pants on now, or I will fuck you right up’ is somewhat counter-productive), and we somehow left the house with him not only fully-clothed, but wearing the green t-shirt (his ‘house’ colours) which had kicked off the spat in the first place.
Ok, he wasn’t wearing a hat like the school had requested (it was originally forecast to be gloriously sunny weather), but we had video evidence on my phone of what a little shit he had been right up until the point we left the house, and I was more than happy to show it to his teachers, should any of them dare to question his lack of headwear.
In the end, we arrived at school on time, sent Ollie off to his classroom wearing a red t-shirt in preparation for the afternoon’s events (yes, the boys are in different houses, which has caused many arguments about which is better), and escorted Isaac around to the infant playground before he could change his mind. Here, I left my mum in one of the seats near to the start line on the school field, while I gladly handed Isaac over to his teachers (whispering ‘good luck dealing with this today’), before making my escape.
Obviously, I only have my mum’s account of what happened next, as I had to dash to work, but the child who hated the thought of participating in sports day (and who was apparently still sulking as he lined up for his first event), somehow secured two golds and two silvers from the four races he was in. Better still, he scored the most points of any child in reception, and got a high-five from the headmistress for his efforts. You honestly couldn’t make this shit up. Although, the fact that one of those golds was in the dressing-up race, comes as no surprise whatsoever….
The thing is, a British school ‘sports day’ is a rather unique experience, particularly when it comes to the definition of what constitutes ‘sport’. It is very rare to encounter a four-year-old child taking part in a recognised Olympic event at their school sports day (although, in fairness, arming the little fuckers with javelins probably wouldn’t be the best idea), and the closest Isaac came to what I would consider a ‘proper’ race, was the 50m dash. Which he came second in.
Instead, sports day usually comprises novelty races, using random items like sacks, beanbags, and the ever-popular egg-and-spoon combo; and these events seldom go according to plan.
The Sack Race
The Idea: Children either begin the race already stood in their sack, or it is placed a short distance from the start line for them to run to and climb in, before they will joyfully hop or bounce the remainder of the distance to the finish line.
The Reality: Unless the children start the race already ‘sacked up’, at least a few will somehow manage to change lanes before they have even reached their respective sacks, leaving one or two so confused and sackless that they immediately retire from the event in tears. Then, once everyone else is safely inside their sacks, at least half will instantly fall over, and the majority of those will end up crying too. Finally, from the remaining children who do at least complete the course, almost all will have ended up face first in the grass at some point, so aside from the winner, everyone else will be sobbing by the time the race is done (much to the hilarity of the spectating parents and teachers).
(photo clearly staged, as none of them are crying/bleeding)
The Beanbag Race
The Idea: Children place a bean bag onto their head, then walk/jog steadily to the finish line without it falling off.
The Reality: The beanbag falls off so frequently (on average, every four steps), that all the children end up cheating by holding it firmly in place for the majority of the event. Everyone turns a blind eye, because the alternative would be to disqualify all the children, resulting in them crying again.
The Egg and Spoon Race
The Idea: To walk the length of the course with an egg (or, more commonly these days, a ping pong ball – for safety reasons, and the fact that no parent wants to end up cleaning egg off their child) balanced precariously on a spoon.
The Reality: Some devious little fucker keeps their thumb over the egg to hold it in place (having learned in the beanbag race that cheating occasionally pays off) and manages to sprint the entire course to the finish line without it ever looking even remotely close to falling off the spoon. No teachers find this in the slightest bit suspicious, despite the fact the child in question wins the race by at least thirty seconds.
Other popular Sports Day events include the ‘Dressing-Up Race’, which will usually (and, somewhat inexplicably) require your child to adorn themselves in a high-visibility jacket, over-sized hat and wellington boots by the end of the race, with each item of clothing spaced equidistantly throughout the course. Additional clothing items may also include dresses and gloves; and sometimes teachers will throw in the collection of a handbag as the final item before the finish line, to complete the ‘elderly-woman-from-the-1950s’ ensemble.
For some reason, schools still persist with including the Dressing-Up Race as part of the traditional Sports Day, despite the fact children will almost certainly never clothe themselves in anything so ridiculous and dated in their entire life. I suppose the rationale behind the unusual choice of outfit is that it is entertaining for the parents, but really it would be more practical to have the children start in their pyjamas, before gradually gathering items of school uniform by the end of the race – at least this way, it would be good practice for the school run every morning.
Finally, we have the parent races. Here, as if being forced to participate in the dads’ event wasn’t bad enough, you will almost certainly encounter the very worst of fatherhood – the ‘Dickhead Dad’. Sometimes, this turns out to be a father you have chatted with in the playground, and who until that point struck you as a decent bloke; but there is a genetic flaw in a small proportion of the male population, which means they turn into a complete wanker as soon as they are placed into a competitive environment with other dads.
The first type of Dickhead Dad, is the guy who pretends to be reluctant to take part in the race, only to eventually ‘give in’, before stripping down to expensive running gear and a pair of spikes. He then wins the race comfortably, before claiming he ‘hasn’t run in years’.
The second – and even worse – type of Dickhead Dad, is the moron who clearly has no intention of winning, or even trying to win, and only takes part in the race because he thinks it is funny to trip up, or push over, as many other men as possible. There is a special place in hell reserved for people like this – and, in hindsight, it is perhaps a good thing primary schools don’t tend to feature a javelin event, otherwise people like me might find themselves imprisoned for impaling someone up the arse with one.
Thanks for reading x