I was at a party several years ago and got talking to a man whose children were school-aged. At the time, I was knee deep in babyhood – three kids, all in diapers. The man was recounting his young son’s sporting conquests. By the sounds of things, he had quite a little athlete on his hands. It was a lovely chit-chat until he said something I found very disturbing – he commented that, as the father of the most valuable player, he enjoyed watching the games more than the parents of the other players.
I was outraged. I told him that all parents enjoy watching their children, regardless of skill level. He stood his ground, trying to convince me that he was the happiest dad on the sidelines.
Fast forward a few years and my kid is off to her first soccer game. She’s a pretty athletic kid who played smart, handled and passed the ball well and scored goal after goal. It was quite remarkable to watch.
As I was cheering and beaming with pride, I gasped suddenly, remembering the conversation from years before. From my lawn chair, I looked around to survey other parents’ faces, expressions and excitement levels. The jury was in – I was enjoying the game more than they were. Certainly parents love to watch their kids shine, so maybe (gulp) that horrible man at the party wasn’t so far off.
Parents all have different competitive levels when it comes to their kids. I’m pretty low-key, but was again left questioning my competitive spirit at my daughter’s triathlon last week. The race director was giving instructions on the loud speaker and announced:
“If you get tired in the swim portion of the race, that is fine – you can just get out of the pool and move on to the bike portion.”
I turned to my daughter and told her to ignore that - her rules were that if she got tired, she could take a rest then carry on. There would be none of this dropping out business. You have to finish what you start – even if it takes a while and you get tired. As it turned out, one kid did bail halfway through the swim, but respectfully waited until the last swimmer got out of the pool before moving on.
It ended up being a great day, a fabulous event and it also gave me the chance to examine my competitive nature. Where do you sit as a parent – are you for full-on competitiveness, or do you like to see every kid on the team get a medal?
Fab photo of my little triathlete by www.ryderphoto.ca