Or “why watching football with your dad is important for boys”. (Where “dad” means father figure, male respected adult, whatever, just someone not in the “soft and fuzzy” stereotype.)
Now, I’m sure that anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that I’m fiercely anti-stereotypes and pro-equality and fairness in the face of any sort of bias.
I’ve written about unfair preconceptions, my own bias when surprised to meet gentleness in a gruff carpenter, and my admiration for my equality advocate colleague. I also get cross when people approach equality of gender (or non-traditional gender) with suggestions that anyone other than cis white males should be advocating for themselves. No, I believe that young boys need to see strong, successful women around them – it shouldn’t be surprising to them that women and girls are in positions of power and responsibility.
I also steadfastly promote the idea that the future mental health of young boys can be strengthened by teaching them that emotions are not something to hide and be ashamed of. I cite this article regularly: The Boys Aren’t Alright.
Don’t be surprised
So, given all that, is it surprising that I’m writing about why I want my sons watching football with their dad?
Is there anything more quintessentially blokey?
But watching football, in our house at least, is one time you can be sure that himself’s emotions will be running high. We’re talking the Scotland national team here, they’ve just qualified for the Euros – the first time at a major tournament in 22 years. They’ve played a few times in the last month or so, each time himself is anxious beforehand, excited and excitable when the game’s being played. He’s joyous when his team scores and disappointed when they concede. If they lose he’s frankly sad and if they win he sheds tears of relief and elation.
Aren’t all those emotions that we want our boys to experience freely and honestly?
If we want our boys to grow up secure in their emotions and considering expression of sadness and despair to be just as valid and shareable as happiness and frustration, then they need to see examples of those things demonstrated by the men in their lives that they respect.
Whether that’s their dad, or uncle, or teacher or sports coach.
So, for me, the boys watching football with their dad is an important part of their upbringing. Not so that they can “learn to be a man” or because “boys will be boys” and they can all have fun “with the lads”.
But rather, because it can combat all those stereotypes too.
Watching their dad get excited and disappointed and shout about it, it’s just beautiful. He’s not one for shouting at the referee, cheering bad tackles or encouraging exaggerations of injury. When his team misses a goal, he shouts out and then calms down, explaining “it was a good chance, there’ll be others, it was a great save.
More to Come
That’s not to say that our house is an idyll of equality. How much better would it be if we watched women’s football with just as much passion?
We’ve all still got plenty of opportunities to improve the equality stakes between all genders. I’m determined that its not only down to the parents of girls to teach them to be fierce. Parents of boys need to teach our children not to be surprised by fierce women or emotional men, not to be shy about their own emotions. Nor should girls be surprised by boys who are openly emotional. All our children, irrespective of gender, need to feel safe and secure expressing how they feel, what they want, fighting for their dreams and supporting one another, and handling disappointment when things don’t work out.
It’s time to throw away those ancient preconceptions about the roles of men and women, their emotional expression and what they should be doing.
And watching a football game with an invested parent isn’t a bad place to start.