The first time around, meaning marriage mark one - many years ago - our two children were in creche or day care or after care depending on their age. We worked; and they came home at six from paid care, and they had dinner and they went to bed. No time to play on weekdays. I was in a career, and a career means you have to have 'quality' time with your children.
These days, since I am freelance - meaning quite often not working - I can pick up the boys from school and take them to the football ground and kick the ball with them until darkness. This is the pinnacle of life. It doesn't get any better. I have had a business career, a sporting career, houses, girlfriends, wives, cars, wine, holidays, money, gourmet food, dogs, holidays, books. Some I have lost. (Not just the books.)
However, spending endless unharried - and unhurried - hours kicking a ball around on the well-kept lawn of a mostly deserted football ground defeats everything else. Sometimes the sun falls behind the 1920s grandstand and casts a lengthening shadow over the green grass; sometimes the wind blows and the ball floats and you can't catch it; or the rain has turned the goal square to a bog.
A few weeks ago the older sibling finally perfected the drop punt after four or five years of blazing away, and now his ball turns over and over, end on end, in a perfect lazy back-spinning arc, straight to the chest of the younger sibling, who has taught himself to fly for a mark. His blond hair makes him look like ... well, whoever you like, or remember: Knights, Van Der Haar, Anderson? And the pleasure is only tempered by the thought that he might hurt himself. The older one is slow and patient and takes longer to learn but once he learns never drops his skills; the younger is fast and showy and impatient and what the football writers used to describe as 'mercurial', a word not seen in the press for probably twenty years.
None of this would matter if they didn't love it. They love it. There's no Auskick, no junior football teams, no pressure; just out after school onto the park to play with the ball. Sometimes they bring friends along and have a match or play markers-up. Sometimes it's just me and them. Sometimes we just go home and they play in the street - we live in a cul de sac - but those days are fewer because they kick farther and fall heavier now. There are several buildings around the place with one of our balls on its roof, including the Coburg Leisure Centre, and a factory near the velodrome. One ball recently was kicked over the old Pentridge wall. The boys waited a week, and the day I bought another new ball from Rebel Sport, the old one was thrown back. So now they have two.