In previous posts, I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I am a pretty good swimmer. That is about as close to bragging as I get, and it’s possible that I could have been exceptional except for one thing. I was never really all that bothered about winning. My mum once asked me why I didn’t try harder at swimming galas. Like mothers the world over, she was convinced that I was the best in my races. My reply was “They always look so happy when they’ve won!”.
Of course, it isn’t out of the question that I actually wasn’t as good as I (or my parents) imagined.
Because of this lack of competitive spirit I’ve never really gone in for sports. I was always reasonable at them but I was never going to set the world on fire with my athletic endeavours and so didn’t try particularly hard at them.
All this changed about ten years ago, when not long after we moved to New Zealand, I joined a local football team. The reason for this was twofold; first I saw it as an opportunity to make some friends, and I also believed that given the Kiwi’s love affair with rugby, the soccer pitches would be devoid of talent and I my decidedly average skills would earn me a national call up in a matter of weeks. Unfortunately I seemed to have donned my rose coloured glasses when recalling my abilities, as I discovered that I was actually terrible. This was compounded by the surprising brilliance of all the opposition players on the field (how dare these colonials be good at rugby and football, and be nice people too!!!). If my memory serves correctly, the first game we played we lost 15-2. This was a completely demoralising experience for me even though I contributed to the goal tally. I scored and own goal.
You will notice that I mentioned that this was our first game. You can reasonably deduce that there must have at least been one more game. Unfortunately (for my dignity), you’d be wrong. I played for the whole of that season; sixteen games in all and my presence on the pitch, was underwhelming to say the least. Every Saturday I’d turn up and wish I hadn’t bothered (a sentiment shared by all of my team mates), as we were beaten soundly each time*.
This competitive streak came to me a little later in life than it does for most, and I have been put to shame by my own children who now treat almost every activity as a competition. As we have come to understand this though, life has become a lot easier.
Bath time, for instance. What used to happen, is that I’d try to persuade one of the kids to stand up so that I could wash them. Now all I have to say is “Whose going to be winner?” and they can’t get up quick enough. We go through the process three times so that each of them can be a winner (first, second or third winner), and bath time is now a breeze. So much has become easier now. When they kids are being difficult about eating their dinner: “Who wants to be a winner?” And in the words of the advert “BAM! Dinner’s gone!”
When they are displaying some reluctance to go to bed “Who wants to be a winner?” Kids gone!
This, for me at least, is like the Holy Grail of parenting.
But remember, as Spiderman has repeatedly pointed out. “With great power, comes great responsiibility. Whilst it is tempting to encourage them to go to be at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, that really isn’t on is it?
At home, this is probably the most useful forum to allow the kids to compete, however we have discovered other arenas in which they want to show that they’re the greatest.
For Christmas, Team Fun received a fantastic game called Boom, Boom Balloon. A balloon is blown up and placed into a sort of frame through which blunted points are inserted. The players roll a dice and the number you roll is the number of places you push a point into the balloon. Eventually, of course the balloon eventually pops, and according to the rules, the popper of the balloon, is the loser. At Team Fun HQ, however, it is considered to be a great honour to cause the explosion, so much so that you are actually the winner. The same is also true in Pop-up Pirate, you win if you eject the pirate from his resting place. This goes to show that being McDonald’s employee of the week isn’t the only occasion when you can be a winner and a loser at the same time. These games are great as Mrs L. and I can join in, and can win or lose as much as the children.
I’ve always thought that competitiveness was at best unnecessary, and in the vast majority of instances, rather gauche. Of course I can see the value in competition, but not it being the be all of a person’s existence.
As I’ve grown up though, I have begun to notice the really high achievers in the world; those few who do rise to the top of their chosen field. Their competitive nature has kept them striving to be the very best that they can, getting up before everyone else, training longer and harder so that they will be just that little bit better than their competitors.
I have always sworn that I would never be one of those parents who stalk the sidelines at Saturday sporting fixtures shouting at their children because they hadn’t passed the ball at the perfect moment, or lambasting the referee because he was human and made a bad call. I stand by that, but I do want my children to do well, and so encouraging them to compete, even with each other, isn’t always a bad thing.
Especially if it helps them get to bed on time!
*Just in case you are remotely interested our best result was a 7-2 loss, and I didn’t score any more own goals!