“Get ready, set, GO!” My daughter’s gymnastics instructor cued the girls and they all pushed up into backbends. I watched from the hallway as my 4 (almost 5)-year-old challenged the 5, 6 and 7 year-olds to a new competition.
“Let’s see who can hold it the longest,” the teacher reminded the girls of the rules. “When you come down go sit against the green wall.”
It was my daughter’s first gymnastics class of the summer. So a new group, new teacher, new traditions. To my knowledge she had never done something like this before.
From the hallway I watched for what felt like forever. A couple girls started dropping and I could tell my daughter was shaking. I saw her stomach quivering, moving as if she was laughing. But I couldn’t see her face from where I was.
The girls were dropping like flies.
She’s either laughing or crying. I thought to myself.
Her coach right next to her noticed too.
“[Lil’ J] what’s wrong?” Her coach asked.
I couldn’t hear her reply from where I sat.
“Well you can come down,” her instructor encouraged her.
I kept thinking she’d come down to at least talk about the issue–Which if it were me would be pain–But she stayed for another moment.
“Why are you crying?”
Oh dear. Crying in a backbend, that’s gotta make things more challenging. I watched with excitement, and surprisingly, without an ounce of competitiveness. I’d never seen her do anything like this before. We practiced backbends at home, but not holding them for periods this long. I was amazed she was doing so well, but sad and confused about her crying.
There were only three girls still in backbends at this point, and Lil’ J came down.
“You did good [Lil’ J],” her coach said. “You got third place!”
When she turned her face I could tell she was sobbing. She went and sat against the wall, which was close to where I was sitting. The door was open and she peeked her head out to look at me.
I gave her a thumbs up and smiled while mouthing “good job!”
She shook her head at me in disagreement.
It’s not uncommon for her to get a little emotional during her dance or gymnastics classes. Especially when I’m watching.
It’s a battle. The whole time she keeps looking at me and waving and I keep telling her to pay attention.
Once the next exercise began she was back into her high spirits. It wasn’t until class was over and we got in the car that I was able to ask her what had happened at the beginning of class that had her in tears.
“I lost,” she said.
“No you didn’t,” I told her. “You did really well. But why were you crying when you were in a backbend?”
“Oh, because I didn’t want to lose,” she said. As if it were no big deal.
“I thought you were laughing at first.”
“No, I was crying.”
“I thought maybe you were crying because it hurt.”
“My arms were shaking,” she admitted.
“Why didn’t you come down?”
“Because I didn’t want to lose.”
It became evident I had a sore loser one my hands. Not the kind that kicks and screams when they can’t win… But the kind that pushes themselves too far for the sheer sake of winning.
I probably should have had some wise motherly advice at this point. I told her that she didn’t lose. That it was just for fun, and that she did really well lasting really long and that she was one of only three people left. She tried her best and that’s what mattered.
At home third place usually means last place. Maybe that’s where the confusion came from?
I tried to explain she was one of the winners without making winning sound important.
I’m not so sure I succeeded.
Should I even be surprised given the way our family is?
Our 2-year-old son even shouts an ‘in YO FACE!’ “Ooooooooohhhhhhhh!” when someone yells the name of a song during our family name-that-tune game. (Obviously learning it from my husband.)
And that very same day I had my daughter help me exercise in the playroom so I could get more steps and “beat daddy” in our fit Fitbit challenge.
She kept telling me to check my progress and see if we were getting closer. When I’d sit down to rest she’d ask me: “Don’t you want to win?”
Was I training a monster?
I’ve said before that I don’t want to raise my children to be competitive. I want them to be their best, and help others be their best. But maybe I’m not living as a great example. Maybe they pick up on these little things and it makes a bigger impact than I thought.
My daily step average for the week (before today) was 2k. I lost 40 pounds then fell off the workout wagon. I thought a step challenge with my husband would get me back on the ball. Maybe I’d do a quick jog or some zumba with the kids and get around 8k steps.
My husband taunted me. Asked me why we were even calling this a challenge.
He already had around five-thousand steps and I had about a hundred.
Ok show off… It’s on.
My goal was a moving target all day. It wasn’t to get to 10k steps, it was to get to where he was.
By the evening I was still a few thousand steps behind.
Our daughter taunted her dad “I’m on mommy’s team, and we’re winning!” she told him.
“Uh, actually not yet,” I corrected.
At fistt he wasn’t sure what we were talking about.
“You know, the exercise game!” She reminded him.
It must have given him extra motivation because he went and did another workout in the garage. Putting him just over a reachable goal in my eyes. Then he got ready to wind down for bed.
He turned in early because he had work at 6am. I went to a friend’s house to watch The Bachlorette.
When I came home I weighed my options. I could go to sleep, admit defeat. I am just too lazy to try to beat his nearly 14k steps.
I could get some work done and try to make it a close competition. Or I could put on some headphones and dance for an hour to beat him.
Where were those headphones…?
It was on. I turned on Pandora and tried to get about 500 steps a song. Eventually I was 300 steps from where he went to bed. So I slowed my pace. Taking time to taunt him in his sleep.
Finally, when I was just a few steps away from taking the lead, I planned it perfectly, taking just one more step than his record.
I took my Fitbit off and laughed at my success and silly persistence and effort to beat him by one step.
I sat down to rest then realized if he got up to go to the bathroom then he would come back and beat me without knowing it. So I took one more lap around the living room to ensure my victory, then sat down to finally start on some work… If I could even stay awake at this point.
And I wondered where my daughter got it from.
Maybe it’s in her blood. Or maybe she’s doomed with us as parents. Either way I’d say we have some serious work to do in the sportsmanship department.
Are you a competitive person? What about your kids?
~Lil’ J is currently 4 years 12 months and 3 weeks old. ~