Thursday, 23 April 2015
A Dad's View 24: Don't be outmanoeuvered
Until now he's never felt the need to be competitive, but suddenly Tom Dunmore doesn't want to be outmanoeuvered by other dads
My colleague Roger is just about to become the world's most competitive dad, and I'm scared. Roger is seriously tough: he's just qualified for the Ironman World Championship – which means that he's not only insane enough to run a marathon after swimming 2.4 miles and cycling 112 miles, he's also good enough to do it all in under ten hours. He's Mr Competitive, too. He was threatened with expulsion from his local golf club because he'd turn up at 6am every single morning for an hour's practice before work.
Roger's talent is undeniable, but it's his obsessive dedication to training that marks him out as a winner. Last year he ran at least 30 minutes every day for 365 days.
Even when he had flu. But now, after Ironman, he's planning to retire from competitive sport.
'Retire?' I'm stunned. 'But how are you going to fill your evenings? And weekends? What are you going to obsess about?'
'My kids,' says Roger, beaming. 'They're getting to that age when I need to spend more time with them.'
Suddenly everything clicks into place. 'You mean they're old enough to start competing?'
'And you'll be coaching them?'
'Of course. It'll be great.'
I've no doubt it will be - Roger's enthusiasm is infectious. But there will be days when his kids really don't want to get out of bed at 5am.
'I did a 5K with my son last weekend, actually,' he says.
'The six year old.'
'How long did that take?'
'Thirty minutes and ten seconds. Which is nine seconds slower than last year, so it's a bit disappointing. He did say his legs hurt this morning, which made me feel guilty. Especially as I made him sprint for the line...'
Another colleague, Paul, swam for England. His dad gave up mornings and weekends to ferry his son to the pool and shout encouragement, and this dedication helped Paul earn a scholarship to a top public school and a paid place at university. But Paul made sacrifices, too, and his training regime left gaping holes in his pop cultural knowledge. For instance, he's never seen Star Wars. To me, this seems cruel and unusual. Paul doesn't seem to mind. He's too busy turning his own kids into winners.
It's not that I haven't tried – Ava has been signed up to dance classes, music tuition, swimming lessons and sports clubs. Invariably, though, her enthusiasm peaks during week one, then she'll be captivated by a minor detail – packed lunch, ballet shoes – for a further few lessons, and then it becomes a drag. This is where Roger would step in with powerful motivation, but I quietly accept defeat and relish not having to ferry kids around early on a Saturday. But all of a sudden I find myself caught up in it all.
'Roger was saying Serena Williams started playing tennis at four,' I tell my wife. 'We're running out of time.'
Lise gives me a withering look. 'Serena Williams was home-schooled, too. Good luck with that.'
'Good point. So maybe we should just buy a piano?' I suggest.
'Didn't you take piano lessons when you were a kid?'
'Yup. And guitar. For a few weeks. I was rubbish.'
'Um, grade eight.'
'Maybe you leave the hot-housing to the professionals?'
I sigh, admitting defeat. 'She could always be an ace film critic.'
'Or a champion app reviewer?'
'Hand me the iPad – the training starts now.'