When you love - but also can’t bear - to watch your children competing

Norfolk Academy teammates Ellianne Eaton, Keola and Isla Hurrell are off to regionals. Picture Tracy

Norfolk Academy teammates Ellianne Eaton, Keola and Isla Hurrell are off to regionals. Picture Tracy Appleby - Credit: Archant

My mum spent a good chunk of the day in tears recently – and it was our fault, says Jo Malone!

Mum has always been incredibly supportive of everything we do, always there, always ready to help.

Or in this instance, to watch one of her youngest grandchildren compete.

Mum is an avid sports supporter, although I'm not sure watching my primary school netball matches really counted as sport – apparently I mostly bit my nails and chatted.

She was there though, dad too very often, whether it was netball, athletics, hockey or riding and I really liked her watching - many other parents dropped teammates off and disappeared.


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She was a very, let's call it 'involved' fan when golden boy, my brother Richard was playing football or hockey. This was before the days when clubs sent out letters to parents asking them not to give instructions to their child or shout abuse from the sidelines.

Mum did neither, she mostly yelled: 'leave him alone you bully' – he was small and very speedy - as other players in her view repeatedly tried to trip him up. I think she headed on to the pitch at one point, but that might be a wrongly remembered memory after hours of embarrassment as friends pointed out my noisy mum.

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But I don't remember her crying.

Mum is also there for grandchildren; from school plays and assemblies to Sunny's dance shows and cheerleading to a lot of football matches – four of golden boy's children play – she supports them. Her football sideline style hasn't altered, apparently, and she had to stop going to one grandchild's matches. There was talk of a ban, I'm not sure if it was a season or lifetime ban, but we try not to mention it.

But pretty much as soon as Keola, her Norfolk Academy teammates and the other pointy-toed gymnasts paraded on at the UEA Sportspark on Sunday her eyes were watering.

As with many sports, Sunday's competition came after months and months of training and dedication for gymnasts and coaches.

Those little ones, super smart in their competition leotards and competition hair, looked so proud and excited, but so apprehensive. It certainly wasn't only mum who had a lump in her throat and tears in her eyes as they stepped forward when their names were announced.

Their sense of pride, relief and achievement as each completed an apparatus and gave a happy hug or a high ten to their coach was phenomenal.

'I can't do this any more,' said mum, wiping her eyes as Keola finished a rather heart-in-the-mouth beam routine.

But it was watching Keola on the bars that finished mum off - and seeing the concentration and poise from my little eight-year-old in a beautiful bar routine set my tears off too.

We were so proud, so happy Keola had done her best, so amazed at what she could do and yet again I wished my dad was alive to see his grandchildren.

Tears ran down mum's face, and kept running too. Our super sparkly little treasure had broken Grandma!

Keola and her Norfolk Academy teammates did well and three of them qualified for the regional competition.

She really wants Grandma to come and watch...

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