Our Dad columnist Olly Lemon is all about the winning
I’m not a competitive dad. I just want my kids to win.
In case you missed it, England just got booted out of their own Rugby World Cup (don’t get me started). The last game was on too late for either of my two boys to watch it but they strutted around in their new England shirts the whole day leading up to the game, bless them. We sang, “swing low, sweet chariot” together in the park, threw little rugby ball about and pretended to score tries. In the morning the older one asked me if England had won. I told him “No, they lost” and he said “Why?”
And I had no idea what to tell him.
It’s not that I don’t know why England lost (because they were shit). It’s more that I wasn’t really sure what the right message was to tell the inquisitive little nearly-four-year-old gazing up at me. You see, I am fiercely competitive, and I can’t work out if I should encourage this mindset with my children. Being competitive is both an asset and a curse at the same time. It fuels you on but can equally burn you out. Surely I can’t be alone in thinking that:
- I want my kids to want to win but not be bad losers (I’m a terrible loser)
- I want my kids to believe in themselves but not be arrogant (I’m a cocky SOAB)
- I want my kids to try really hard but not stress themselves out if they fail (I get pretty stressed)
How on earth are you supposed to know how to help your children find this balance? I’m not saying that I want my sons to play for England or climb mountains (unless they want to). Indeed, I personally am mediocre (at best) at pretty much any sport. It’s more the mindset.
Then there is the conundrum of trying to work out if average is bad. Average is something you strive for during pregnancy, birth and the very early days. You want everything to be “normal”. But as the months tick past you start to want your child to walk early, to be the first to speak, to have more words, to kick a ball cleanly… to win, win, win! I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea. At some point, average gives way to competitive spirit, it’s in our genes. Or at least, it’s in mine. I guess it shouldn’t matter as long as they’re happy, but that’s the easy way out of the debate.
So what should I have answered my boy?
- “They didn’t try hard enough” (not true, England definitely tried)
- “Sometimes you win and other times you lose” (defeatist and, quite frankly, obvious)
- “Because they went with Sam Burgess over Burrell in the squad” (he’s three years old!)
I think in the end I went with “The other team played better”. I don’t think he was even really listening to my answer as Paw Patrol had just popped up on the iPad, but without realizing he had got my mind racing in competitive dilemma.
And is it just me or does Stuart Lancaster look exactly like Christian Bale?