I tend to be slightly competitive. Slightly. It’s not like I would encourage a team-mate to hurl the electronic CatchPhrase game on to the next person before it stopped beeping. And it’s not like I would add, “It’s OK. She has on glasses to protect her eyes. Get rid of that sucker!”
Oh, wait. Maybe I did do that (sorry, Crystal — glad your glasses didn’t get broken). But honestly, it was just for laughs.
But it’s not like I would taunt the other team in Trivial Pursuit with comments like, “You got a wedge for knowing that the Dairy Fairy is a mascot for Kraft? And we’re supposed to know when Mikhail Gorbachev’s birthday is? Yeah, the Dairy Fairy is totally worth a wedge!”
Oh. Maybe I did that too. But it was just to liven up the game. Honest.
And maybe my family won’t let me play board games with my older brother any more. But, really, I’m only slightly competitve.
Though I do tend to be competitive about board games (and, truly, that’s mainly just in fun, mainly), I have learned there are things I shouldn’t be competitive about.
God impressed upon my heart from the very beginning of my motherhood experience that I cannot be competitive about my children. If your baby crawls earlier or talks more than my baby, that is fine by me. If your child reads at a younger age or plays soccer better than my child, I will not dislike your child. 🙂 I will rejoice with you, and I will not feel guilty or less-than or embarrassed.
Mothers can feel competitive about nearly everything. We can begin to feel as if our own worth is somehow rooted in how quickly our toddler learns his ABC’s or how early our child is potty-trained.
I’ve known mothers who have placed a one month-old on a slanted sofa cushion and then proclaimed to all who would listen that their baby rolled over at four weeks. I’ve known mothers who have taken their seventeen month-old child to the bathroom every twenty minutes; and when he actually goes some of those times, she announces that he is potty-trained. I’ve known mothers who run themselves ragged taking their three or four children to every activity possible — piano lessons, dance classes, children’s choir, a sport every season for everyone, swim team, play dates, band practice, and on and on and on. Because children who are busier are smarter and more well-rounded and have more chances to be the best at something.
Competition can be a good thing. When it’s a healthy sort of competition. I want my children to work hard and do their best. I want them to learn to be a part of a team, working together to accomplish a goal. But I do not want my children to feel like they have to be the best always. I don’t want them constantly comparing themselves with others and feeling they have to be smarter than, prettier than, faster than, better than. That’s not healthy. And I don’t want to foster it in any way.
I want my children to understand that we all develop at different paces and reaching a milestone earlier does not make someone smarter or better. I have known children who walk at six months and children who walk at eighteen months. You know what? By the time they are two or three, both children are walking and nobody could guess which child walked first. As I look around at my friends, I can’t tell you which friends began reading at age three and which ones learned when they were six. I don’t know which friends earned straight A’s and which ones made some B’s and C’s along the way. I do not know which friends were the star of their middle school basketball team and which ones never made the cut. I don’t know which of my friends were potty-trained at eighteen months and which ones didn’t stay dry at night until they were nine or ten.
None of that matters now.
My six children have different gifts and different types of intelligences, and they each go at their own pace. If I foster competition with those outside the family, they will also compete with each other. I don’t want to prize my daughter’s ability to talk early over my son’s ability to build amazing Lego creations. I don’t want to prize my son’s incredible soccer skills over my daughter’s gift of organization. I don’t want to prize my son’s ability to do math quickly in his head over my daughter’s tender heart and gift of empathizing with others. I do not want to send the message to my children that being an aggressive forward in soccer, who scores a lot, is any more important than being a great defender. Or for that matter that the scoring soccer player is any more important than the serving sister who filled the water bottle and faithfully cheers and encourages.
I want my children to feel valued for who they are. I do not want them to feel they have to be the best, strongest, smartest, fastest, or most talented to gain my favor or to please me. I do not want them to begrudge a friend or sibling’s success because of jealousy or fear of rejection for not measuring up to that friend or sibling.
We practice praising each other’s successes and noting each other’s strengths and gifts. We practice encouraging and cheering for each other. We emphasize doing our best and learning all we can and enjoying ourselves.
And I never, ever let them win at Trouble or Tic-Tac-Toe or Old Maid. And if they do happen to win, you might hear me say, “OK, best two out of three! Let’s go again.” Because, though I won’t compete with you about whose child is smarter or better, my competititve nature does sneak out during family game night.