Since I decided in October 2017 to post a new blog piece each Monday, I have watched with satisfaction and relief as my viewing stats have grown, mostly, week by week.
I admit to my rising delight as I check nervously again on the latest piece, and it and those lingering others push upwards in likes and — the ultimate show of appreciation — comments. Likes lovely, comments, “Yes!!!”
And I frown in silent despair as a particular set of stats slows, starts billowing smoke, and soon putt, putts out altogether.
Then there are the pieces I thought might not do well but which did much better than others I sniffily considered superior.
Which bears out William Goldman’s famous dictum, regarding why certain movies soar and others burn and plummet, “Nobody knows anything…… Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work.”
I will even admit to responding to the relative success of pieces by looking at why they worked. And responding to that. Responding to market forces, don’t you know?
Parenting-themed pieces, particularly ones around my battles with my young teenage daughter, seem to have struck a chord. Ones with a sporting theme, however, receive barely half the readership of the former.
Why? Well one obvious possible reason is there are many Mom and Dad bloggers out there reading my stuff — and me their’s of course — and many of the Moms, whisper it, are less interested in sport.
I have connected up with many of these Mom and Dad bloggers online, and we have a lovely supportive network going on, following each other on Twitter, tweeting and retweeting each other’s posts, and liking and commenting on Facebook things (I would use Pinterest if I knew how, but wouldn’t even know where to start on Instagram).
I contribute to blog host linkys, whereby you comment or like the host’s post and read and comment on as many others as you like. And vice versa. They’re great and wonderful to be a part of. And they boost readership. Yay!
All this by way of saying as I get to today’s actual theme, I hesitated, because it’s to do with sport! And I am going with it because I want to write what I want to write.
For some time my wife A and I have been on a journey familiar to all those parents and guardians out there who have a sports-mad child, or children.
Our particular odyssey is being shaped more and more by the fact that our son O is, a talented soccer player.
It’s a fascinating ride, already full of adventure and excitement, but it has also given him — and us — plenty of disappointments, and yes, there have been tears, tantrums and tirades, and some eye-opening encounters with people on the same journey. Coaches, other parents and kids. Rivalries, jealousies, camaraderies of convenience and friendships real and apparent.
And some less than edifying reactions from yours truly at certain moments.
Not quite muttered admonishments of O, who plays at left centre back, escaping from me when he makes a mistake; red-faced anger at a poor refereeing decision in the other team’s favour; seething discomfort as a coach or rival parent berates our boy’s tackle that rings down an opponent.
I try to put my frustrations away quickly, but sometimes, it’s all just so intense!
And we are there on the sideline, A and I, helpless, as our little man goes out there on that field of dreams alone, armed with nothing but his talent, determination and ferocious will to make that tackle, pick out that pass, make that header, exhorts his team-mates, and try to set up a score, or put one away himself … and win, naturally.
It is so hard out there, our little guy, who is not particularly tall, or muscular, using every little bit of everything he has to hold out that stronger, bigger opponent, or get that last-ditch stretching toe to the ball to deprive the striker bearing down on goal.
Talent will only take you so far; at this level high-end ability is commonplace; you have to have that indefinable something that is also obvious when you have it in abundance.
How good is O? How good will he be? We don’t know yet. He has been able to meet the challenges, and even thrive, at every new level he has reached, but he might plateau, and slump at this one, or it could all end with a bad injury. Or a key coach might not rate him. Freeze him out.
It happens. Already at this age, we have encountered plenty of talented kids who already have a scary number of club moves made. Hasn’t worked out for them … yet!
O might have the luck he will also need, but he will also have to meet that good fortune half way and build on it.
This environment is harsh and unforgiving, but it is also filled with high drama and daring deeds of passionate intensity. It’s even fun at times!
O might soar or he might burn and plummet — nobody knows anything. We might get to hold his jacket as he runs on to glory or we might have to help him deal with shattered dreams at such a young age.
Or at least help him to recognise the noble satisfaction of having given it his best shot, and eventually accept his limitations. Knowing he has achieved much, if not all that he expected, or was maybe expected of him. And he can continue to play soccer for fun and exercise.
It’s exhilarating for us, the proud Mom and Dad, when O makes that fantastic tackle, and gut-wrenching when that sweeping pass across to the full back is intercepted and eventually leads to conceding a goal. Oh, calamity!
O has learned to lose, graciously for the most part, but dare the referee get a major decision wrong …
Even at the age our son is, 12, soccer at the elite level in the greater Dublin area, is tough. It’s physically demanding, and the smallest lapse in judgment or heavy touch can be punished severely, but the mental demands are quite frankly of another order altogether, for a young boy like our O.
He loves it, lives it, breathes it, and the lines between practice, learning and pleasure are utterly blurred for him; despite our admonishments his door is always opened before the car has fully stopped as he rushes to the dressing-room on training nights.
O is in his first year in secondary school and he is doing well there too. So it’s so far, so marvellous. But you never know what’s around the corner. Nobody knows …