Something happens to you when you live in Melbourne, it’s involuntary, you can’t stop it. You find yourself watching grown men rolling around on the floor simultaneously groping and assaulting one another. This is not closing time at one of the many colourful bars on King Street, this is Australian Rules Football or Footy to the locals. I’ve done a fairly good job at resisting the lure of Footy but last week I found myself in a pub and my eyes simply surrendered to the big screen. I had no idea what was going on but I started joining in the chorus of “Referee, come on!” I think referee bashing is a universal language.
Last weekend I strolled down to the local oval and there was a game in progress it must have been an Under 10 game, these children were practically tripping over their own shorts. As I scanned the boundary for a bench a suitable distance from the noisy coach who was taking his role very seriously indeed a little scuffle broke out between two players. At that point a glamour Mum came tearing onto the pitch and made a beeline for the boy who presumably was in an altercation with her son.
“Don’t you ever f’ing hit my son again or I will f’ing sort you out myself. You f’ing little monster!” The boy, who I repeat was all of 9 years old, was in flood of tears and was visibly shaken. He was taken off the pitch by one of the other parents and even as he was being consoled F Bomb Mum decided it was appropriate to continue her sweary tirade. This was all going on about 10 metres from me and I felt sick to my stomach. At that point this lady and I made eye contact. I used to hate confrontation and would always let things go, I still do hate confrontation but over the years I have reached a point where if I see something wrong happening I want to right it.
I shook my head in pity at her. To say that my actions were like a red rag to a bull is probably an understatement, this particular bull came charging towards me and I didn’t have a little red rag to fool her with. “What the f’ing hell are you shaking your f’ing head at you f’ing beeeeep” this immortal line was delivered about an inch from my face and she appeared to have smoke emerging from her ears. The old me would have mumbled something apologetic back and tried to talk my way out of the incident with my manhood intact. But I’ve had enough of mindless bullies who feel they can treat people with contempt and get away with it because they shout the loudest.
“I am looking at you humiliating yourself and your child. You’re setting the worst kind of example”. Oh my gosh, even as the words were coming out I could hear champagne corks popping in my own head, even if I had been given weeks to plan I reply I wouldn’t have come up with anything more fitting and the best thing was she was rendered speechless. She managed a final “f off” but by that stage a number of spectators were actually clapping.
I used to play soccer, I’ve coached junior teams and I’ve been a PE teacher and it never fails to shock me how many parents turn up and bark orders, criticisms and insults at their own children not to mention other peoples. I won’t be that parent, sport at that level is to be played for fun and it is no fun to be shouted at and openly put down in front of your mates.
The bigger moral to the story and what it really cemented for me was the need to set the right example to Max. Children as we all know are sponges, they look up to us, we are their role models and they wonder around soaking up all the ammunition that we give them. I want to be the Dad that stands quietly away from the rest and gives him a wink and a thumbs up when I catch his eye. I want to be the Dad that puts an arm around him when he misses a kick and tells him he’ll get the next one. I want to be the Dad that celebrates all the brilliant things he did rather than the one mistake. And most importantly I want to be the Dad that if he would rather go to drama, dancing, art, music or whatever other kind of club will drive him there and celebrate his successes in those pursuits too.
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