‘Hey Dad, the Stormers won’

 “It’s a special school, Tanky, they offer no formal sport,” answered one of my favourite people here at 24.com when asked what sport her kids played at school.

“Jeez” I said, after getting up from the floor…

“So what do you talk about at home?”

“All kinds of things…just not sport.”

It got me thinking…what other things do parents and kids talk about? Birds and the bees … How many friends you share on MXit and Facebook…The two times table …Why calculus is still worth learning…Politics…The effect of mitochondria in the cell generation process…The weather?

Perhaps I am taking this whole generation gap thing just a little too far, and perhaps modern day families do “share” a whole lot more than they used to. But I am not so sure…This colleague is known to overshare in gargantuan proportions, after all.

So where is the middle ground in a digital world that threatens to alienate parents and children even more so than in the “old days”?

Well, sport is not a half bad place to start, methinks. Sure the sporting landscape has changed as much, or perhaps even more, than any other, but it is a landscape that many fathers still feel at one with. And more importantly, a landscape where an old man can still be a little more knowledgable than his kid for perhaps a smidgeon longer than say, the digital, political or sexual landscapes.

It’s also a fairly “safe” topic, you see, and apart from disagreeing on whether Ruan Pienaar should be playing scrumhalf or flyhalf, you are not really going to cause a family rift that leads to aunt Edna refusing to attend the Christmas lunch ever again.

It is about encouragement rather than cajoling or forcing. My little guy is only one year old, so I am yet to be tested (although I definitely get the biggest thrill when he tries to throw that little juggling ball at me, and proceeds to reach his toe - just), but my old man was sensational in his support of whatever sport my sister or I tried our hands at. Apart from a smack on my bum when I did not get my chubby arse out for a run with him one morning, he was about encouraging me to do what I wanted to do …

Me, I could not wait to get home and hit that cricket ball in a sock hanging from the patio roof that my old man had put up. And the mattress he made for my sister to land on when practising her high jump was something to behold. The R 1.00 he gave me for every try I scored for the under 12B team at Sweet Valley is a memory I will cherish for life.

And I love no other man more than I love my father for this …

Keeping the balance

But like anything in life, it’s about the balance. Discussing sport at home with your lightie is cool, but not when he should be doing his homework or sweeping the patio floor you so viciously make him do in order to earn his R10.00 pocket money.

Sport is sensational in that it teaches you so much about life. Especially team sports. It teaches you about yourself, and it teaches you about other people. Like how to handle being lumped with a person you might not especially like, but for the greater good of the team, it is key that you set aside any differences you might have. It teaches you character, and it teaches you friendship – two things I hold very dear to my heart.

So yes, sport might be simple, and it might be “safe”, but it provides a platform where father and son can meet as equals. And sure parenting is about guiding one’s offspring, but it’s also about building a friendship that you want to last for a lifetime. And for that, you need some “safe” ground to retreat to when the going gets tough.

Does sport play a part in your family relationships? How do you encourage your children to be interested in sport?

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