Look At Life: Odd One Out

12th January 2018

Bookworm versus Sports Fanatics

By Lisa Botwright

My husband and I met at sixth form college and have been together for nearly thirty years – married for nearly twenty of them. Only don’t ask me ‘how?’, as we have nothing in common whatsoever. Other couples talk about their partner as their ‘soul mate’ and this makes me chuckle. Soul mate? I have more in common with my pet cat than my husband. Whereas my furry friend and I have a joint fondness for nice food, afternoon naps and idly watching the world go by, my husband loves all things active: playing sport, watching sport, talking about sport. Yawn. When we go on holiday, I’ll be lazing on the beach while he’s off climbing the nearest mountain, or swimming to some shadowy island on the distant horizon. He generally makes it back for dinner time.

When we talked about having children we imagined our genes would be split down the middle to create a perfect hybrid of the best of each of us. My creativity, his practicality; his way with numbers, my way with words. My eyes, his height; my love of reflecting, his love of doing. That kind of thing.

Only it didn’t quite work out that way.

I’m now the mother of an amazonian 15-year-old daughter, who is so resilient and capable she makes Bear Grylls look like a wimp, and a 13-year-old son who lives for football and adrenaline-charged games. He makes my heart melt every time I look at him, but I often have no idea what he’s talking about.

When it came to creating the next generation, our genes didn’t so much split down the middle, as transfer lock, stock and barrel through the paternal line. And while we could balance out our opposing interests through compromise when we were a couple, now it’s three against one. I’m simply outnumbered.

Weekends consist of ferrying each family member to various high-octane sporting events, while I valiantly try to carve out some me-time. ‘What’s mum doing now?’ they ask. ‘Why is she keeping us waiting?’… ‘She’s reading again,’ they snigger, as they hover by the door dressed in their sweats, with all the clear-eyed health and potential energy of racehorses at the starting gate.

When the children were little, it was more straightforward. Any attempt to stay in and do something quiet and creative together would end in mess and mayhem. Instead, I treated them like puppies, showering them with love and exercise. Now walks are ‘boring’ and if they submit to the idea of a family bike ride they charge ahead so quickly, I lose sight of them within minutes. Instead, my husband takes them to zip wire activity centres (I’m too scared of heights to join in) and finds the most challenging local terrain for cycling (I’m too fearful of going flying over the handlebars). As for holidays – they want to ski, I want to go somewhere sunny. I adore history and heritage, they want action and adventure.

My family love me, but they see me as some kind of aberration to be humoured. ‘Let’s go to the theatre,’ I say hopefully, while they roll their eyes in derision. ‘Let’s get comfy on the sofa and read our books together,’ I plead as they run away in horror. ‘I do love to sit and enjoy a view,’ I said once to my daughter. ‘You’re weird, mum; you’re the only person I know who likes doing that,’ she replied emphatically. (Am I? Am I really?)

I’m not complaining… I love the fact that the children are happy and healthy. I’d much prefer for them to have a passion – even for sport – than for them to mope around inside all day. Only just once in a while, I think… wouldn’t it have been nice if they were ‘arty’ and I could be watching them on a stage inside a warm, comfortable theatre or listening to them perform in a pleasant concert hall, rather than cheering them on from the sidelines of a freezing sports field? In a parallel universe, perhaps my husband and I are spending our Saturday afternoons talking enthusiastically to our offspring about literature after a bonding trip to the local bookshop. In this universe, I’m largely resigned to being seen as odd in my own home.

I press on, though. I’m hoping that we’ll be cracking the holiday conundrum with an all-inclusive activity retreat by the seaside. ‘What a great view,’ my daughter will say, flopping down at a beach-side cafe after tackling a back-to-back programme of watersports along with her brother. ‘I’m exhausted,’ I imagine my son commenting, before asking, ‘did you bring my book?’

Or maybe not.

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