Competing for recognition. Teenage twins battle it out in the pool and on the track.

Early on our children realised, unconsciously or not, that it would be a good idea to do different sports from one another. One snowy Sunday aged 3 1/2 he decided to try out at her ballet class. Dressed in blue and white striped pyjamas he gave it a go. Disaster. It was no fun at all for her to have her class invaded by her pesky brother. After that she never went to ballet again, the teacher had spent too much time praising her twin, she just couldn’t go back with or without him. So years later she took up competitive swimming, and he football later adding athletics and cricket into the mix.

Today he is utterly fed up that she won’t recognise him for his successes on the track. After the first race she couldn’t hide how impressed she was, asking him about his times, his splits and for how long he led. But now she’s not quite so vocal.

She’s fed up because he no longer congratulates her on her victories in the pool.

I think this is nonsense, he’s swift to praise when she comes home clunking a medal or brandishing a new personal best and she’s quite good at patting him on the back. But it doesn’t matter what I think, or what we say, it’s what they think that counts.

Urgh, how to encourage both children to be generous. Normally they get on pretty well, but of course as siblings they’ve got the ability to really annoy and persecute one another. We can’t draw on much experience as parents as neither of us enjoyed many podium moments when we were growing up (but I did win my first event at Durham Regatta many decades ago and I did get a medal for my Aspire swim the length of the channel swim…).

I know we don’t get recognition for many things in life, but boy does it taste sweet when you do. Whether you’ve won a new piece of business, a project you’re involved in has made a mark, or you’ve scored a new job – when people comment and notice it makes you glow, doesn’t it. When you get a medal or a gong or something more it’s all the better. I am so proud of being able to wear my British Swimming lanyard at galas now when I officiate (what?! well it shows I’ve spent hours poolside enough time swotting over the rules to qualify as a junior judge).


I fear social media makes us crave recognition, be it a like or a share or a retweet, all the more.

This post was gestated in the glorious steel lined tank of Parliament Hill Lido where the water’s up to 15’C now but no one else seems to have cottoned on that it’s warm enough to give you that #FridayFeeling


Thinking on your feet & surviving an 11 year old boy’s birthday party: football, pizza, cake and Plan B

I learned some interesting lessons this weekend. Mainly that in life you really do need to line up Plan B as however well rehearsed and thought through your Plan A is things don’t always go quite how you’d imagined. And with parenting you quite often have to make the whole thing up as you go along.

Perhaps naively me and the Supportive Husband and our 11 year old son thought we had the perfect party lined up:

15 eleven year old boys

2 honorary guests (twin sister & her footballing friend)

90 mins football on the astroturf in teams

unlimited pizza, biscuits, chocolate crispies, coke

giant football birthday cake featuring 2 teams, ref, goals, corner flags, subs, you name it (icing pics at the end)

Skyfall video

Parts 1 (football) and part 2 (eating) went swimmingly with 17 pairs of football boots in the hall.

birthday some of the 17 pairs of boots

It was part 3 (film) when things went a bit pear-shaped. All 17 kids crammed into the sitting room, put the DVD on and turned the lights off. Then the fun started. A few of the lads decided they didn’t want to watch so would make some of their own fun. This was all fine for a bit – me and the Supportive Husband listening from the kitchen looking slightly anxiously at each other as noise levels rose, and rose. When they rose a bit more we went in. Didn’t want to be spoilsports or much worse Embarrassing Parents. But how to juggle 12 kids wanting to watch a film with 5 who didn’t? Why should the 5 be quiet and sit down when actually they’d seen it before / had itchy feet / wanted to muck around?

Retreated to the kitchen again. Gave them a bit longer. Noise levels rose A LOT MORE. One lad came out and asked if I could do something. Right. Time to Act. Cue light bulb moment: they need some more exercise and some fun outside.

I go back in to now quite fusty dark sitting room. Take command of remote control, pause film, ask for a show of hands of ‘who’d rather not watch this?’. 5 hands went up.

Me: ‘Right guys, out you come.’

So out they trooped.

Them: ‘What are we going to do?’

Me: ‘Put your boots on, we’re going out for a run.’

OMG did I really say this??

YES! And it was absolutely great (I think – anyway it stopped the neighbours being terrorised by our mid afternoon noise in the house and spread the enthusiasm around the neighbouring streets).

Off we ran down the road, then they played catch with one of those foam rugby balls in a nice wide bit of car-less road. When we lost the ball we sprinted on playing ‘It’ to the grassy, exceedingly muddy and very dark park to play what can only be called ‘throw and go and find the ball’. The only way you could find the ball was if you listened very carefully to hear where it bounced. More good fun. Then that ball disappeared too. So home, not disturbing the film-watchers but to games round the kitchen table.

PHEW thought me and the Supportive Husband as they all left. We survived another party. But only thanks to a plan B which we hadn’t really had up our sleeves. It’s taken 9 years of 2 parties each year (twins) to click that if you’re going to host a party you’d better have a Plan B ready in the wings. Bit like life in general eh.

At the end of the month we host the Speedy Swimmer’s birthday party – camping in the garden. Soon we shall start thinking up Plan B.

Heaven help us with the Teenage Years…

birthday assembling the teamsbirthday dipping arsenalbirthday strips on