It's finally happened. I am becoming the sort of American 'mom' who ferries her sons around to endless sports classes.
For someone who was pretty hopeless at sport at school, and who spent her childhood learning the 'cello and doing drama, it's a fairly surprising outcome. But, in addition to the boys' weekly swimming lessons and ice skating lessons, Littleboy 1 now attends indoor basketball training on a Saturday morning. It's what you do here, and why not? After all, he has a lot of energy, and on a winter weekend when it's really too cold for much else in the icy New York winter, at least he's getting some exercise....
The first week I took him along by myself, as The Doctor was busy buying the Christmas tree. As we headed for the school gym where the class takes place, I became aware of several things at once;
a) I was not a Dad
b) I was not carrying Littleboy 1's own basketball (he doesn't have one, and had never played before), and bouncing it in an enthusiastic manner.
c) Littleboy 1 did not have a basketball sweatshirt emblazoned with the name of some player for the New York Knicks. (Although at least I know who these are now. It's so confusing, what with the New Jersey Nets, the Mets (baseball) and the Jets (American football). )
We therefore stood out already. As Littleboy 1 disappeared into the melee of over-excited small boys and coach-Dads wielding whistles, I wondered if lots of the other kids had played much before. As it was a group of five-year-olds, I thought maybe a few might have tried it....
But soon, the gym was awash with tiny boys who had obviously been trained to play basketball since they were in the womb. Dribbling with ease, shooting into a full-size adult hoop, passing - all egged on by their fathers, who, if not coaching, stood on the sidelines bouncing their own basketballs and cheering enthusiastically. When it came to the game itself, Littleboy 1, although strong and physically able, hadn't a clue what was going on. (He still hasn't - after three weeks now, he still passes to members of the opposite team. He claims to love it, though).
I can safely say that I was the only parent who sat down in a corner of the gym with a copy of the New York Times, and proceeded, in between glancing encouragingly at my son, to read the Travel section. The few other mothers there stood throughout, either sipping from enormous Styrofoam coffee cups or tapping on their iPhones (such is the Long Island mother at play in their natural habitat).
The third week, I told The Doctor that this time he really should go along and watch his offspring attempting to dribble a ball. I described the scene to him, and he looked askance. "It's all right for you," he grumbled. "You can probably get away with reading the paper. But I'm a father, and I'll be expected to be bouncing basketballs and cheering."
In the end we all went, but Littleboy 2 was soon bored, and I took him off to the shops, leaving The Doctor to it. (Not before he had commented that the whole thing - the slightly stinky gym, the cheering, the random chaos of small boys and basketballs - reminded him horribly of school. Like me, he did not excel at school sport - and still isn't all that interested in sport, except for ski-ing and tennis).
But when I got back, I found he hadn't touched the newspaper and seemed to have observed the game quite closely. And even he had to admit that there was something about the way that these American dads pumped their kids up that was really quite impressive. At the end of the game, all the kids joined hands and yelled out the team slogan - whereas we rather thought that, in England, everyone might have just slunk off home.
We'll make a basketball Dad of him yet. Just as soon as we put up that hoop in the backyard. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to take my sons to the skating rink (where five year olds in full ice-hockey gear shoot across the ice excitedly, boasting of how they're going to play for the Islanders one day). One day I might even pop into Starbucks and buy myself a grande latte on the way.......