But one remark caught my attention recently.
“I’ve been to 100 games here, and I just want you to know that what you’re doing is great,” the man told me. He was in his 20s and wasn’t slurring his speech, but he obviously had had a few “extra ones” outside the stadium.
I suppose my two young sons and I stood out, even in the midst of an 80,000 seat college football stadium. My 2-year-old was sitting in my lap and my 6-year-old son was sitting beside me, and both were behaving remarkably well — great news because I was doing this solo. I had thought a “boys’ day” would be fun and challenging, and I wanted my wife to enjoy time alone with our daughter.
So what would possess a grown man to take two young boys to such a crowded, busy, loud event? Simply the fact that I enjoy college football and thought my sons would, too. And they did.
We got in the car that morning at 5:50 for an 11 o’clock game, and everything – from the weather to the game to the post-game events – went splendid. There were no meltdowns or tantrums.
Maybe God just blessed me with a marvelous time that day, and perhaps next time it will be disastrous, but there are at least nine things I did right that I’ll try again. If you’re a sports fan wanting to take your child to a major sporting event, here are a few tips:
1. Build it up. That is, build a sense of (realistic) anticipation. My oldest son loves marching bands, so about a week before the game I told him how we were going to see the biggest band he had ever seen, and how that huge band played the instruments before, during and after the game. And, I told him: We were going to eat bratwursts! (He loves those, too.)
2. Sit near an aisle. Perhaps that’s not possible, but it sure helped us. We bought our tickets on a resale website (Stubhub), and I spent an hour comparing the ticket options by using a detailed map of the stadium. Before I even arrived, I knew our seats were about five seats from an aisle – and that meant five seats from those ever-important bathrooms and concessions.
3. Skip the bigger games. Let’s face it: You’re not going to see much of the game, so don’t take your kid to the “game of the century.” Instead (and if possible), take them to the matchup with “Cupcake University” where your team is more likely to win. You’ll relax more, and probably also save lots of money if you’re buying tickets on the secondary market.
4. Have a practice run. Just like your favorite team practices for the game, you should too, but in a different way. Take your kids to a junior high or high school game, and see how things go. If it’s chaotic there, you may want to think again.
5. Make it kid friendly. Do your research beforehand and see if there are any children’s events. Some baseball stadiums have playgrounds near the outfield, and some football stadiums have pre-game events with inflatables. Indoor sports have their own unique venues. My sons and I visited the souvenir shop during the fourth quarter, bought a pair of $3 footballs, and then found a grassy lawn outside the stadium for a game of catch. They loved it.
6. Go prepared for the worst. Only you know what that means for your child. For me, it meant that I needed an extra pull-up and pair of underwear for my youngest son. Both came in handy. During the fourth quarter, he “messed” in his pants, and we found the nearest family restroom.
7. Leave early (if necessary). If you make your kids stay longer than they want, they may never want to come back. Most children have trouble sitting for 15 or even 30 minutes, much less two, three and four hours. To combat this, we got up often simply to walk around and visit the concessions. Speaking of that …
8. Take cash for concessions. Either that, or take snacks into the stadium (if allowed). I can be quite tight with my money, so buying overpriced concession food really hurt. But it may be the difference between a pleasant experience and a horrible one. For my boys, I told them the times during the game we were going to visit the concessions. They were fine with that.
9. Get a good night’s sleep. This is obvious, sure, but it was necessary for us. After all, we walked a mile to the stadium, a mile around the stadium, and a mile back to our car. That’s a lot of walking for young kids – and on the way home, it showed. Before we were barely out of town, they had fallen asleep. And when they woke up? They were talking about that game and everything they did. They probably will be for a long time. Yes, it was worth it.
Michael Foust is an editor and writer who blogs about parenting and fatherhood. He loves his family and also really likes stove top popcorn. Interested in re-posting this in your publication or on your blog for free? Send me a message in the comments section below (the message won’t go public). Also, check out my video section.