A couple of weeks ago I turned my back in disgust and walked away from my son “playing” soccer (or football for those of you that insist…)

Let me give you the context – Jono has been doing a summer soccer program at the local club.  All we heard throughout the Rugby season last year was how much he wanted to play soccer, so we thought “Lets give it a go, it’s only an 8 week thing and if he loves it then we can give Soccer a go this winter“.

Ironically all we hear now is how much he wants to play rugby – yeah the grass is always greener and all that…

So he’s been “playing” for a few weeks on Wednesdays after school.  I say “playing” because the whole program is a bit of a bodge job with little structure or actual teaching happening.  I’ve since discovered through conversations with other parents that this seems to be a common theme in summer soccer all over the city.

Anyways, getting back on track…  So I managed to extract myself from work early one Wednesday despite (or maybe because of?) a growing mountain of things to do.  I need to drive past the grounds on the way home and I’m left with a decision – I can stop and watch my boy play or keep going and knock off 200 – 300 of my growing mountain of emails to get a head start on the next work day.

I decide to stop and quietly congratulate myself on “making a good choice” as Mrs. Brown (Jono’s year 1 teacher) would say.

This is where things turn pear-shaped.  I get to the field, say hi to Nat and Kerryn and turn my attention to the game where the group are engaged in some kind of free-for-all melee that involves a soccer ball and a goal.  In the middle of it is Jono, kind of playing, but getting increasingly frustrated that he doesn’t get the ball.  As I stand on the sideline I start to get frustrated with my offspring’s effort.  My running mental commentary was going something like “Run Jono, go get the ball.  Kick it.  No, you can’t pick it up, what are you doing?  Listen to the coach.  COME ON DUDE, WTF???”

Then the final straw.  One of the other boys kicks the ball into the back of the net and Jono collapses into a crying heap on the field because he didn’t get to score the goal.  He wont get up, he just lies there.  The game carries on around him.

Something in my head let’s go with an audible SNAP.

Irrational thoughts flood my brain.  I think to myself – “I gave up the chance to clear e-mail so I could watch my boy be a cry-baby on the soccer field???”  Screw this I’m out.

And that’s exactly what I did.  Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  I turned and walked straight to my car, muttering something along the lines of

“F%@k this, I have better things to do than watch this s&*t”

to my wife as I went past her.

The kicker is that by the time I’d pulled out of the carpark I was hit with waves of guilt and confusion.  What just happened there???  For the first time in my parenting life I was dealing with a nasty case of what I call #InstaRegret.  The pressures of work and having not one, but now two dependent lives in our family, and the subsequent challenge of never having any time to yourself had gotten the best of me and manifested itself in something that was decidedly not “making a good choice”.

Some of you reading this might be thinking “So what, you walked away from a pick-up soccer game, what’s the big deal?”.  Well I pride myself on having a tremendous amount of patience with children in sport.  I am usually the positive one finding the glimmer of hope in an otherwise hopeless endeavour.  But most importantly, I’d given up on Jono when he came up short.

In that moment I’d forgotten all the things that he is great at, all the effort that he was putting in, all the positives and turned my back when he was struggling.  

I’m sure that this isn’t the first time that I’ll disappoint myself as a parent.  I’m sure I’m not the first parent that has instantly regretted doing something rash.  It wont be the last time that my human frailty gets the better of me.  I guess it’s part of the learning curve of parenting – as these little people gain the ability to surprise and delight with the incredible things they can do, they also earn the right to struggle and fail.

So what’s the point of this ramble?  What’s the moral of the story?  I think it might be this… #InstaRegret is actually kind of a good thing.  I’m not saying that we should go out of our way to make bad choices and feel terrible about them, quite the contrary.

The fact that you can recognise the bad choices you’ve made and actually feel bad about making them as a parent means that you are perfectly normal.  

If you’ve never experienced #InstaRegret as a parent then strap yourself into the parenthood express and wait for it.  Or reflect carefully on the things you’ve done – you might just be a psychopath!

Tell me – when have you experienced #InstaRegret?


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