Boyhood – a new phase

Football ballThump. Bang. Crash. Bang.

No. Its not the sound of builders. Or the latest video-game.  It’s the sound of my son.

“Will you please stop kicking that ball against the sideboard?!”

Every day this winter, the Boy likes nothing better than to kick his light-weight football up against the inside front door, or sometimes through it, using the porch as a make shift goal.  Most of the time I’d say I’m pretty tolerant of the noise and occasional tumble of paperwork off the side board. But occasionally it just gets to me. The ‘keep things nice and tidy me’ returns, my patience wears thin and I yell at him to stop.

You see, about a year ago my then 7 year old became obsessed with all things football.  You know, that normal evolutionary development of the human male-child species at that age.  In September, when he turned 8, he joined a local youth football club and joined a team of 8 boys, run by the dads (some more enthusiastically than others…).  ‘Football dad’ is a title that the OH has accepted a tad grudgingly but most definitely dutifully: the love for his son has, incredibly, won over his bias for “proper Aussie Rules football”.

And so this winter, all he’s wanted to do when he’s not in school is kick a ball about. Or play Minecraft. Or read. But that’s a post for another day.

We have a smallish house, but thanks to the previous owners knocking down the hall wall, our sitting room is slightly larger than average, affording The Boy space to kick a ball against the inside front door.

Crash. Bang. Bang.

I’ve decided to take a pragmatic view and let him do this because a) our furniture isn’t that precious b) he can’t play outside with other boys as there’s no boys to play with on our road and its a busy-ish road, and c) its a light-weight ball that (generally) does no damage (she says, crossing her fingers and hoping our paper shaded lamp stand lasts the winter…).  Gee, the boy’s a boy. Let him be one for an hour a day, I reckon. School hardly lets him.

But the crashing sound really starts to grate after a while.  I start to consider myself crazy for allowing this indoor football nonsense and screech for it to stop.  We do have a curfew time, at least.  After 7.30pm its “No indoor football!!” I declare, swiping the ball away and placing it up next to the cake box where he can’t reach. Yes, that’s it – cake & football, the two loves of his life.  My 10 yr old daughter is also known to hide the ball regularly to stop the irritating sound punctuating her ears leading to quite amusing scuffles between the two of them.

But this obsession with football has been accompanied by other defining changes in him. Gone is the little boy who willingly sits on your lap, or pesters you with ‘Mummy’ every 60 seconds, who smiles when you kiss him good morning/good night, or hugs you back when you hug him.

I know its totally normal. That its all part of that critical ‘change’ in boys around this age.

But the lack of eye contact, the gentle grunting, the shrugging of shoulders when I correct him, and the incredulous “Yeah, Mummy, didn’t you know that?” knowingness, seems to have come like a thief in the night, stealing the ‘little’ in my boy.

I know, I know: he’s not gone, or stolen. He’s just different. He’s growing up. He’s expressing himself differently, and aligning himself with his peers, and his dad, not me.  He’s not generally rude, impolite or uncaring, and so I should have nothing to complain about.  But it is still hard.

When I get the chance to sit next to him on the sofa whilst watching TV, I sneak in a cuddle, drawing him into my side, and he responds. I treasure those moments.

Parenting is like being on an airport travelator:  kids never stay still, always changing and evolving, and right under your nose.  Rather infuriatingly, they rarely, if ever, change in the same way as their siblings.  So we’re constantly having to adapt and dance a new tune, just as we thought we’d sussed out the last one….

Crash. Bang. Thump.

Boy, I simply can’t wait for spring when he can kick that darned ball outside……

12 thoughts on “Boyhood – a new phase

  1. I have just come indoors from playing football on a bright spring evening with my boys (13 & 9) so you might imagine I would dissent from your piece. But I don’t: football is where boys shake off their infancy and that comes with unappealing alterations; and nothing annoys me more than hearing a ball kicked against a bedroom wall when I know we’re up against the clock to get to school.

    I enjoyed reading this. Thanks

    TouchlineDad (@touchline_dad)

    • Thanks very much Chris. I hope i didn’t convey an anti-football sentiment in my post?! I’m very for my son playing football. I LOVE the way he loves it, makes him come alive, its just irritating when its indoors every day! And its interesting what you say about football being the place where they shake off their infancy as that’s exactly what I’ve observed and what this post is about – but you’ve articulated it better! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – have you written anything about this? S

  2. This is such a tender post. I find it so emotional thinking about the years passing! I have spent all of their babyhood wishing it away (allergies and intolerances) but now I see my Esme – 6yrs – changing and I want time to stand still. Lovely post.

    PS Can you pls update your link to 1grace1faith on your blog roll. I changed my URL and it has caused havoc! Thanks so much xxx

  3. Oh this is completely us. I’ll always remember my mum shouting at the local boys for kicking a ball repeatedly against our fence in the road. I guess she’d never had it with my brother, but then he became a lawyer, so I can’t imagine what he got up to as a boy! But yes, she’d hate living in my home now. I love it though – I love that he has a passion.

  4. This post made me smile – you could have been talking about my son: seven and a half, loves nothing better than to kick his lightweight football around the house and, when Daddy is home, coerce him into a round of practice headers and goal-keeping.

    And, yes. A year ago he couldn’t give a stuff about football. Now, he’s doing chores to earn some Chelsea shorts.

    My husband, I have to say, is LOVING it. Especially the kit buying. It’s like sending me into Fenwicks for a new handbag…

  5. In the house? Are you mad woman?! We don’t have one in the house but just the noise of him kicking a big hard ball against the outside wall is enough to drive me mad! But he’s missing it so much in the winter and I would much prefer him to be kicking a football around, to playing on the Playstation. Bring on summer! My boy changed around this age too. I loved seeing him embrace new things but the change from being my little boy was quite dramatic….and emotional! X

    • Our two are so similar aren’t they? I’d love them to hang out. And yes it IS dramatic in terms of the speed. It seems only 6-12 mths ago that he was my little boy. And yes, I must be mad, but if only we HAD an outside wall, S, I’d be insisting on him getting out there! Thx for the comment hun, x

  6. you should be grateful he is kicking the ball and not his sister! And you’re looking forward to the summer: wait till he’s outside and breaking conservatory glass (remember regular calls to glaziers after foot/tennis/cricket balls demolishing yet another pane?)Re developing at different rates – try having four, mixed sexes, doing it.
    Mum

  7. Oh yes, I can totally relate to this. We have a sponge football in the house because it’s safer, but when the biggest (41 year old) boy gets hold of it, it can still do damage!
    Until he was about 7, my younger son was all about me. The other two liked Mummy and Daddy equally, but my younger son just wanted his Mummy. Then football came into his life and Daddy became the coach and life became all about Daddy. We’re ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ now, even though he’s still at primary school, he doesn’t like affection and he spends far too much time in his room watching Minecraft videos on YouTube 🙁

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