I have step children who were both committed Celtic fans before I had a chance to influence them. I took my stepson to an Accies game when he was 12, he was bored, and he never came back. I've seen plenty of youngsters bored at games, dragged along by parents either desperate to plant the seeds of lifelong loyalty or forced by childcare necessity to involve the kids in the parent's interest. So I thought long and hard about how to introduce my son to Accies.
My son's five. He considers himself an Accies fan: he's got a season ticket, a scarf, and he asks about the score. (As an aside, he doesn't have a replica kit - when is the shop going to be stocked with his size in home kit?) But he doesn't understand the rules of football, and he doesn't have the attention span to stick with a game on the telly, far less 90 minutes of live football.
I thought long and hard about how to introduce him to Accies. I swore I would refuse to take him until he was desperate to come, rather than risk losing him to boredom. But childcare necessity, my soft-heartedness, and the club's generous free season ticket offer intervened.
He got his first (free) season ticket last year, and on Saturday will use this year's book for the first time, in what will only be his fourth Accies game. I'm hoping to break his record of staying just past 60 minutes, but I don't expect to see the end of the game - which is a pity, because I doubt Saturday's game at home to Falkirk will be decided until the last half hour, perhaps the last fifteen minutes or less.
I wonder how others deal with this dilemma? I know some bring bagfuls of toys, and bribe the kids with crisps, sweets and soft drinks. I know it helps to move around a bit - visits to the toilet, the kiosk, changing seats at half time, etc. But my challenge is to engage him more with the game itself, pointing out features we all take for granted, explaining what's going on, justifying the rules, and so forth.
I'm hoping for plenty of goals and excitement - not things I typically expect from our encounters with Falkirk. It's more likely to be a bruising, perhaps bad-tempered encounter, decided by a goal or two, with hopefully Accies emerging on top. Will my bairn appreciate the bairns?