BENGALURU: It was the day after PV Sindhu’s nail -biting Badminton Final at the Rio Olympics and we were at our local sporting goods store. Us, and the entire city. People are milling around stocking up on racquets, sweat pants and swimming goggles as though the apocalypse is nigh and only a pair of football cleats can save their souls. (Disclosure: We are there to buy a set of training weights to prevent osteoporosis which www.doctorsnotquacks.com insists women will die slow, painful deaths from if they don’t life weights.)
Everyone there is high on Rio, hoping that some of that athletic prowess might inspire and rub off on their progeny.
We are raising children in a highly competitive times. We search for the tiniest interest our toddlers show in something – kicking a ball, clapping their hands, making a sandwich - and we imbue it with a deeper meaning: football prodigy, the next Trilok Gurtu, should be on Master Chef Junior. Then we put all our money, their time and our shrillest voices in to making sure that it happens. Their victory and glory will then cast upon us parents a glowing halo.
We sign our kids up for Soccer Tots at three. Even though research shows that the hand-eye coordination and muscular development required to play football with some level of proficiency develops only by the age of nine. Years. Not months. Every year, I see parents of younger and younger children begging swim coaches to take their Jr. Phelps on. “But he loves the water Sir.”
As I saw the ambitious parents around me, I wondered how many of them played a sport. So many of us expect children to excel physically without moving a muscle ourselves. I’ve seen parents sit at the sidelines and coax, cajole and then hiss at their children to take part in the strength training classes they’ve signed them up for. Many of those parents wouldn’t be able to do a set of burpees or push-ups themselves.
“Oh but they’re children, they have so much more energy than us,” some may say. But they’re children who spend longer hours in school, commuting and doing homework, Mandarin and Kumon. They’re just as tired as you are after a 12 hour day.
If you ask me, everyone of us who enrol our children in a new sport or activity this year should sign up for something new ourselves. Walk, bike, learn Mongolian or fencing. For starters it will help us remember just how hard it is to master something new and second of all, we’ll be qualified to talk to our kids about the importance of practice, hard work and endurance. Walk the talk people.
So, on Sunday, I got in to the pool with my boys and made an epic fool of myself. My limbs seemed to have a mind of their own. I flailed, I got water up my nose and was exhausted. My 8 year old pulled up next to me ”Don’t worry Amma, we’ll get there” he said.