When you and your kids have opposing interests

Ian Mendes is out in left field when it comes to finding common ground with his kids.

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Illustration: Jori Bolton

Follow along as Ottawa-based sports radio host Ian Mendes gets candid about raising daughters, Elissa and Lily, with his wife, Sonia. 

When my wife was pregnant for the first time, I used to dream about doing fatherly things with my child. Playing catch in the backyard. Teaching her how to play hockey on an outdoor rink. Eating messy chicken wings in front of a big-screen TV, while watching football on a Sunday afternoon.

Only one of my dreams has come true, and it’s the part about eating chicken wings in front of the television. But, tragically, the TV isn’t tuned into a sporting event. Instead, my kids, Elissa and Lily, like to watch animal-related shows like National Geographic Explorer and Daily Planet.

Don’t get me wrong, I love dolphins and jaguars, too—but only when they’re playing on an NFL field and I can wager a small amount of money on the outcome.

At ages nine and six, my daughters have zero interest in watching or playing sports, even though we have all the equipment. They’re convinced that the purpose of the tennis racquet in the basement is to swat wasps.

On a number of occasions, I have taken our kids to the park with a couple of baseball gloves, a ball and a bat. Within five minutes, they start chasing butterflies and inevitably ask, “Can we go on the swings now?” The whole scene reminds me of when my parents tried to get me interested in the trombone in grade five.

In an effort to expose them to organized sports, I put Lily in T-ball last summer. She was excited to go to the diamond every week, but it turns out she was only motivated by the post-game snacks. Running around the bases aimlessly was just a means to get an ice pop.

Read more: New blood test predicts your child’s athletic future? > 

As for Elissa, I once saw her try to throw a football back to some boys at the park and her attempt was so atrocious that I pretended she wasn’t my child. “Who throws a football with two hands over their head like that?” I yelled, while running away from the scene.

After realizing that my kids weren’t going to be sports fans, I decided that if they didn’t like football and hockey, maybe I could become more engaged in some of their favourite activities. It seemed like a fatherly thing to do. The problem is, Elissa is now in the middle of a crazy Harry Potter obsession that is showing no signs of relenting. And when it comes to the world of Harry Potter, I am the ultimate Muggle.

The only way I’m interested in Wizards and Magic is if they are playing on an NBA court and I can wager a small amount of money on the outcome.

I tried opening up the first Harry Potter book, but couldn’t get past the part that said “Copyright J.K. Rowling 1998.” I even thought we could blend our two obsessions by playing a game of backyard Quidditch, but we didn’t have any flying broomsticks next to those tennis racquets in the basement.

My wife picked up the first Harry Potter movie on DVD, but I have yet to watch it with Elissa. I told her I would watch the whole movie with her if she sat down and watched an entire NFL game with me. I don’t think we’ve spoken since.

Lily is into dinosaurs, which is a fairly common interest for kids. However, grown men tend to be rather indifferent about the whole prehistoric era. I have tried to excite my daughter by shouting, “Oh wow—look at these Raptors on TV!” I love seeing the disappointed look on her face when she comes racing into the family room to find me watching basketball.

For the most part, my daughters and I just pass each other in the house like we are roommates. And they are those terrible roommates who never pay rent, don’t clean up their messes and have no interest in sports.

I always figured this disconnect with my kids would happen when they were teenagers. One of them would start painting her nails black and going goth. The other one would just be too busy texting to make eye contact with me. But maybe since our kids hate sports now, their form of teenage rebellion will involve watching football and playing hockey.

A dad can dream, can’t he?

This article originally appeared in our March 2014 issue with the headline “Opposing interests,” p.32.

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