Towards the end of his latest book, The Love of the Game, Mark Chapman, one of televisionâ€™s most affable presenters, talks about his sonâ€™s developing football prowess â€“ not in a boastful way â€“ but in the way fathers eventually must when realising that thereâ€™s no need to let the boy nutmeg you: he can now do it at will.
Acknowledging that his son is becoming a man, Chapman shifts easily into manly mode himself, believing a good sliding tackle will show young Ben that heâ€™s no easy touch. He doesnâ€™t execute the tackle, of course, but you suspect that in a couple of yearsâ€™ time he might.
Most of us fortunate enough to have children go through a phase when, having introduced our offspring to sport, we deliberately hold back and, for instance, let your daughter beat you when swimming a length of the pool, only to discover that one day, sheâ€™s fast enough to leave you trailing behind while youâ€™re at full throttle. Parents have done this, or something similar, since time immemorial.
â€śNurturing your children in the sporting world takes time, money and love,â€ť says Chappers, a man whose love of sport has clearly been passed on to his son and daughter, as his own parents passed it on to him. You sense his frustration when he talks about todayâ€™s children â€ścraving physical activityâ€ť, yet many find themselves parked in front of an expensive, yet tacky, computer game when kicking a ball in a park would be so much better for their health, both physically and mentally.
It is evident that Mr and Mrs Chapman see only good emanating from their willingness to enthusiastically support their children, irrespective of their latest sporting pursuit. During an entertaining passage of soul-searching, however, Chappers worries that he might be verging a little too close to becoming a pushy parent, wondering why he canâ€™t let his children enjoy themselves.
On balance, you suspect that Chapman and his wife have little to worry about; it appears theyâ€™ve got things about right, for there are millions of parents whose lives revolve around their childrenâ€™s sporting activities, be it with school or a local sports club. Thereâ€™s a fine line between encouragement and pushiness which very few adults cross.
This is an entertaining, but also a thought-provoking book full of good humour and lashings of parental angst. But isnâ€™t that what raising children is all about?