Daddy, Come Out and Play!

This week Fergal Hughes writes about watching his children grow up, making the most of quality time and the lessons he’s learned as a father. This is heartfelt, perfect reminder that for parents, often our children are the better teachers.

I have two sons and I’m separated. I only have my sons every second weekend.

These days, my youngest son has just just finished primary school while the eldest has just completed his 1st year of secondary school. They’re more concerned with what’s called ‘screens’ (i.e. video games and YouTube videos) than swimming lessons!

But a few years ago, when they were both going through primary school, I used to get them involved in extra-curricular sporting activities like football or swimming. The importance of being active and all that.

And as much as I could, I'd try and be active along with them. It was important for them (and for me!) to at least 'give it a go' when I got the chance. It was inspiring for them and it was motivating for me too.

Sometimes, after a Saturday morning football lesson, there’d be time enough for a quick 10-minute kickabout between the kids and the parents. Just for the hell of it, I got involved too, albeit always as a goalie- less requirement to run after the ball!

The thing is, my MS gives me a very noticeable limp in my right leg and I also get tired very quickly (my two worst symptoms). I was a useless goalie and I almost always let whatever team I was on down.

Aside from these weekend organised activities, I felt it was important for me, as it would be for any parent, and important for my sons that we bonded over shared experiences. So, I’d try and get all three of us to spend time together outside, be it at the beach on a gorgeous day or down the park playing piggy-in-the-middle or hide-and-seek or whatever.

Of course, this meant piggy-in-the-middle could be very unfair when the ball went off course and there was a dash for it between me and one of my sons. I always lost. (Damn you, MS. You’re showing me up in front of my kids!)

Interestingly, in time I began to notice that one or both of my kids used to ‘let me win’. Seriously. I thought it was SO cute. It should have been almost patronising and it might have been if it were anyone else but it brings a tear to my eye, realising that my sons saw how the MS physically affected me and how they just wanted me to feel better regardless.

Funny, if I didn’t have MS, I’d be the one playing with gloves on, so-to-speak, letting my kids beat me, be it in a game down the park or in a 5-metre race in a swimming pool.

The fact that it was the other way around, even though it was against the natural order of things, shows me how mature and compassionate they are, especially for their age. 

And believe me, I gave that game of piggy-in-the-middle my all!