Few events in the school calendar gladden my heart like Sports Day. My children’s school has understood that if you’re going to take a day off work, you don’t want to waste it watching other people’s children running the 800 metres (worthy though such a pastime may be). You want to be greeted by coffee and cakes, you want the sports field festooned in bunting, and most of all you want to picnic like you’ve never picnicked before.
The day before the sporting action there is always a frenzy of mummies clashing trollies in M&S as we vie for the fanciest sandwich spreads, most exotic salads, and prettiest cakes. And that’s before we’ve even started to think about what to wear.
The dress code on these occasions is a moot point. There is always a small number of parents who seem to have misunderstood the fundamental premise of sports day, and who show up in sports kit themselves (seriously – how bizarre is that?). And another handful who have cleverly managed to squeeze a couple of hours work in beforehand, and who arrive suited, booted and slightly frazzled. But the majority of parents plump for smart-casual. Not so smart they look like they’re actually trying, not so casual they look like they’ll be lying on the sofa watching Come Dine With Me later.
I, dear reader, have been working tirelessly to overturn the smart-casual convention. I have been going all-out-Ascot with fancy frocks and and stiletto heels. This year I upped the ante with a hat. If you don’t count the woman in a beanie, I was a thought-leader on the what-to-do-with-a-bare-head front.
And then there are the actual sports. Let’s start with the parents. The dads race is so popular that this year they had to have heats and a final. Every dad is in the race. There are men running in shorts and trainers and men running in suits and ties. And for the twenty or thirty seconds the race lasts, they are all heroes. Dads everywhere, I salute you.
The mum’s race has an entirely different vibe. There are only about 6 competitors, and four of them are wearing sports kit and running spikes. What’s that about? My children persuaded me to run it last year, and I spent the entire length of the track trying to stop my skirt from riding up and showing my knickers. It goes without saying that I didn’t win. I wasn’t even a valiant second. Or third. I’m thinking of requesting that next year they make it an obstacle race.
And so to the kids – the reason we are all actually there. I love cheering on the children – all the children, not just my own. I love the way the crowd always gets behind the slow kid struggling at the back and roars with joy when they cross the line. Everything about it is a microcosm of life. It is a competition, and there are individual winners. The children are also in houses, and each individual win contributes to the house’s overall success. Each child feels the glory and tastes the pain of the wins and losses of others in their house. But we are also a community, we celebrate those who have done well and support those who are struggling. And isn’t that how life should be? My children’s school is a great community to be part of. Thank you, Mr H*.
* Mr H is headmaster at my children’s school and is regarded with awe and reverence in our house. Nothing makes my children sharpen their manners like the words ‘What would Mr H say?’