Remember pre-children weekends? You know, getting up late after a night out, rustling up a cooked breakfast and a vat of coffee before settling down to a forest’s worth of newspapers, gently musing whether you should pop along to the market later then meet some friends for lunch? At least I think that is what I used to do – it’s all so hazy now, I am not sure if it happened, or it was just some delicious dream I had. Or perhaps I saw it on a film. Yes, that must have been it. In which case, I will give myself a pair of stunning legs and the ability to speak fluently in three languages.
Meanwhile, back on Planet Sprog, our weekends are a tad different. First up at 9am is tennis. We took E to a trial lesson a few months ago, and he was curiously enthusiastic about the whole thing, so we signed him up. His usual approach to classes, or groups, or any situation where you are expected to have fun and do stuff is one of extreme apathy. I can empathise, to be fair. Anything that even vaguely whiffs of organised fun has me scarpering for the nearest exit. All that enforced jollity and camaraderie. It makes you wish for a gun license.
So there we were, last week, at tennis. I was bleary eyed and jaded from an event the previous evening so rare it may have been the shock that was causing my headache: I went out. I mean properly out. It involved clean clothes, getting on a tube and champagne. Get me. I stood under a little canopy, clutching a cup of tea, watching E swing his racket about in a somewhat uncontrolled manner in the rain. I was most surprised that he hadn’t refused to play, given he is not so much a fair weather sportsman as a fair weather human, but so far he was being remarkably stoical. But his initial enthusiasm for tennis seems slightly to be on the wane; I watch as the coach gives the group instruction whilst E is busily engaged in catching rain drops in his hand.
I tutted, and returned to my iPhone. At which point I realised that E’s lack of enthusiasm might, just might, be apathy by osmosis. I mean, I am all for getting him to run around and hit a few balls, expend some energy and get out of the house, but I am not expecting him to be the next Andy Murray. Or even the next Tim Henman. If he doesn’t look miserable for the whole session, and if he vaguely joins in when he is supposed to, then I consider it a job well done. Some of the parents are a lot more engaged with their offspring’s progress. One or two ensure that they clap extraordinarily loudly every time their little sports star hits a shot over the net and they shout a few words of encouragement. I find this parental engagement a little off putting. It distracts me from Twitter, for a start. And if E does manage to plop one over the net, I make the assumption that it was fifty per cent luck. And, after all, that is what he is meant to be doing. If he slammed an ace down the court, or cart-wheeled cross-court to flick a tasty backhand over the net, then don’t get me wrong, I would applaud until my hands fell off. But accidentally holding his racket in the right spot to bounce a ball back from whence it came? Excuse me if I don’t call the local newspaper just yet.
He comes over for a drink at break time. “Did you see me hit that ball over the net?” he asks. Errr… it seems I missed that moment of sporting glory, I may have been talking to a dad about the demise of our High Street, or schools, or house prices. (I know. I couldn’t be more middle class if I had sprinkled a balsamic reduction over my Earl Grey and offered him an organic biscuit from my Cathy Kidston bag). “Yes, I did, darling!” I enthused. See. I am not a total cow. I can lie with gusto as good as the next indifferent parent.
And so he goes back to the lesson, and I go back to drinking my tea. Perhaps, I wonder, I should be more engaged with his activities. Maybe it would help him be more enthusiastic. I look over, scanning the damp court to find him amongst the chaos of flying tennis balls, flailing rackets and bedraggled children. There he is, in the middle of the court, standing still whilst the whirlwind of activity carries on around him, licking the raindrops off his tennis racket. I take it all back. This boy is obviously just weeks away from becoming the next tennis prodigy.