The Dad and #TeenageSon annual pilgrimage

I’ve written about football before, a common interest for me and #TeenageSon, sharing the positive whilst also turbulent joys and woes of success and failure (Click here for more Footie banter). During the last few months I’ve realised,  I am where I am, I dreamt of this moment many times over the last 18 years, me being forty years old and my son eighteen.

Over many a glass of wine I’ve mused over what it would be like, what my relationship would be like with my #TeenageSon at this point in our lives. Would he hate me, admire me, look up to me, love me, want me when he’s feeling low, talk to me about his deepest worries. I’m sure every parent goes through this angst year after teenage year.

I made it, unscathed, with my son wanting not only to be in the same room as me but go down the pub with me and more importantly wanting to go on what now has become our legendary, annual pre-season Derby County tour, our pilgrimage, that we have vowed will happen every year from this point forward.

As a parent I have experience of the fact that the teenage years can be a turbulent time, let’s start with secondary school, kids grow from little seedlings, the new kids on the block, new to the big wide world and then progress to being the king pins in the latter years and sixth form. The rapid developments in social media over the last ten years consequently means getting the attention of today’s teenager in this digital age is no easy matter and can have both positive and negative effects on the father and son relationship. Don’t be too concerned if you find yourself ‘blocked’ from accessing their profile!

Alongside these complex interactions there is the rebellion and a passion for a teenage boy to excel, to be different and be his own man. I should know, I left home at sixteen! As my son turned eighteen, my greatest worry was that suddenly, I become less like a superhero and less interesting, more of a disappointing hassle, this is where a mutual interest became our saviour – football, more specifically a sense of shared adventure, a long weekend every year to watch Derby County in their preseason friendly football games.
This year the pilgrimage took us for two nights to the Algarve and I left the organising entirely in my son’s hands, (payment excluded!). From the off there was no way the weekend was going to go without a hitch. We drove up to the ‘Meet and Greet’ barrier of the car park at the airport, which I have to say confidently opened once the camera had recognised our number plate. As we drove into the designated lanes, quickly boxed in from all angles, we grabbed our hand luggage and walked to the office to hand in the car keys. (I muted, ‘bloody hell that was easy’, to my peril). Once at the car park desk the computer really did say no, we hadn’t booked ‘meet and greet’ and why would we need it! Once the initial panic was over, we created havoc in the car park to retrieve our car and parked again in the much more convienient short stay car park.

After an eventless flight and reliable transfer from airport to hotel thats when the fun started.

‘We have had some internal problems and have no room for you…however we have transferred you to an apartment in our 4 star sister hotel’

Following a 15 minute taxi ride (gratis) we rocked up at a very plush spa hotel with a dramatic sea view. We were apologetically welcomed and taken to our private detached villa with gardens, sea views and own private pool. Unfortunately we didn’t open the back door (non-sea view) to reveal the private pool until it was too late towards the end of the trip, rookie mistake!

I have to mention the football as that was the reason for the trip: Benfica 4 – 0 DCFC enough said about that. And then there’s the partying, thank god it’s an annual thing, a free shot with every pint, I don’t think I could cope with any more often.

Call me a bad dad but we started the ‘pilgrimage’ last year when #TeenageSon was only seventeen, I took him to Amsterdam by virtue of the Derby County pre-season football match in Utrecht – trust me that was an experience! Oh and if anyone from the the Derby County crowd has any influence – a pre-season week in Vegas next year please 😉

This is my story of my 18 year adventure of fatherhood so far with my son through the prism of football. I’m sure there are millions of other hobbies and interests fathers share with their sons (and daughters) that are equally or more rewarding. I know I am lucky, fortunate and blessed to have these memories. On the news you hear of teenagers dying in tragic accidents, children who have terminal conditions, which I cannot begin to comprehend the impact of this on parents lives for which I am sorry.
If you are a parent, whether birth, step, foster or adoptive parent, make the most of it… me, it’s been the fastest eighteen years of my life!


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