My never ending quest to make sure my son is not picked last in gym class has subjected me to countless competitive parents. Now it takes one to know one, so I fully admit I have a very competitive spirit. However, I also know there are limits.
I signed up for a soccer class once a week in the afternoon filled with four, five and six-year-olds. The instructor is awesome and leads the kids in fun activities and does quite a few one versus one drills. He calls out two names, they race to the ball, attempt possession and battle each other until one makes a goal.
My son started out never even touching the ball. He'd race to it (if racing is what you'd call it), but it was more like a skip. He'd have a huge smile on his face, arms waving in the air like he just don't care, and then right before making contact, the other player would zoom by him, steal the ball and shoot right for the goal. My son would kind of hop/run/skip after him and then once he became witness to the demise of his turn, he turned in circles and plopped back in line. Keeping the huge smile on his face.
The competitive part of me died a little inside every time. But the fact that he still was so happy, kept us coming back for more.
We're on our third season and I'm starting to see light. Now when his name gets called, he does actually run to the ball (slightly faster than a tortoise) and if he gets possession, he does shield that ball like a madman and doesn't let his opponent take it. He doesn't ever actually go anywhere because he just turns his back in circles, protecting the ball, but progress nonetheless.
All of this quiet competition was great for my son and it's such a non-threatening atmosphere, that there wasn't any pressure perform, but great joy when a goal was actually achieved.
Screeeech. Not so fast. Yesterday was the day I almost punched another mom. The coach called out my son's name and then yelled VERSUS..... RIVER. I swear to you his name is River. Almost instantaneously the mom starts yelling, "GO RIVER - BEAT THAT KID TO THE BALL! YOU ARE BETTER THAN HIM - GOOOO!! HE'S GOT NOTHING, NOW RUN TO THE GOAL" wtf? We're at a little kid's soccer practice. In all my years going to things, I've never heard a parent yell like that. Games, yes. But practice? Really?
Of course River kicked my kid's ass, but I just sat there with my mouth open looking at this mom. Their turn came up again, and sure enough, it was like hitting the GO button, "COME ON RIVER - YOUR FASTER THAN HIM - THIS ONE'S EASY - YOU GOT THIS - KICK THAT BALL OUT FROM HIS FEET - HE WON"T BE ABLE TO CATCH YOU"
I'm not speechless often, but I had no idea where to go with that. After the beat down, class was wrapping up and the brilliant instructor has child labor to run around, collect the cones and goals then carry them all back to his car. While we all kind of gathered around the trunk, the coach pointed to his license plate and said, "WHO IS THAT? River happened to be standing next to him and he repeated, River, do you know who that is a picture of on my license plate"
River looked a little shell shocked and said, "Your dad?" Oh, thank you Lord for the gift I have just received. My son shouted out, Abraham Lincoln. The 16th President.
I glanced at screaming River's mom who had a nervous smile on her face and even let out a slightly awkward laugh. I couldn't help myself, I had to say it to her. It was just too easy. "Yep, your kid might be more athletic than mine, but mine sure is smarter. I wonder who will make more money"
I can't wait for next week's class. Maybe I'll bring a bullhorn and shout out math problems while they're playing.