The Slippery Road To Becoming An Overly Competitive Parent

First and foremost let me make one thing clear, I know that I am a competitive person and always have been, so much so that my childhood nickname (and occasional adult one also) was “spoiler” because of my relentlessness towards every task or event which could be perceived (or even barely perceived) to have a competitive element to it. In this manner, I would wear down all and sundry and generally take the fun out of even the most trivial of pursuits, well actually in particular Trivial Pursuit, in which I remain unbeaten since before I developed the dexterity to place trickily shaped wedges in a relatively flat cylinder!

Now I’d like to think I have mellowed a bit over the years, so I have come to realise that eating my dinner at breakneck speed in order to be first, or acting like Usain Bolt to sprint to the car before everybody else, are not the most efficient uses of my energies. However there are certain occasions when my competitive streak overcomes me, in the same way that mild mannered David Banner is completely helpless to control his bouts of rage. At the lower end of the scale this can manifest itself through mutterings at the viewing area of a swimming pool while I urge one of my boys to overtake the child ahead of them as they complete another length of the local pool. Although there could be an element in this of just trying to combat mind-numbing boredom, I currently spend up to five and a half hours poolside each week so anything to liven things up is welcome. There is something surreal about watching countless youngsters attempting the breast-stroke without using their arms. Just a procession of bobbing heads in a pool.

By far the most common scene of this emergence of “competitive rage” is on the sidelines of the many fine GAA pitches on the northside of Dublin. In my mind, I am merely trying to pass down a certain level of wisdom which I have garnered over hundreds of matches, either as a participant or as a spectator, to help my offspring be the very best that they can be. Surely Aaron (10) should be informed that switching play from left to right is the best way to overcome a blanket defence in gaelic football, or that going in tight body-to-body is the best way to tackle in hurling (while also being the best way to avoid injury from a stray hurl). Well that’s what I thought until Aaron ventured over to the sideline on a cool and crisp Malahide morning and told me in quite a forthright and plain way to “shut it”. Now I was slightly taken aback by this, in my mind I was just being a supportive parent, but in hindsight I can see how the constant chatter / roaring from the sideline might become slightly irritating. So now we have an agreement that unless I am cheering on some positive play, he doesn’t want to hear my voice. I should point out there is a high level of irony here, given that the games in which my boys play are non-competitive i.e. nobody records the scorelines and there is no league at the end of it.

In fact I am always amazed at the amount of “medals” which my boys have accumulated in these non-competitive competitions. I mean the amount of single-use metal / plastic on display in their bedrooms would have Greta Thunberg on red alert in whatever bat cave she lives in. Hey I had to earn that faux-marble trophy for top player at the Dublin Millennium (1988 for those who can’t remember back that far) soft tennis tournament (Clontarf area), it wasn’t just a case of turning up! Try telling the youngsters that nowadays, “what, you actually had to win a match!”, bloody snowflakes.

So in order to find a safe release from my competitive parent syndrome I have had to turn inwards and take shelter behind the safety of the four walls I call home. Now I know the PS4 and gaming consoles of its ilk get a bad rep, but where else can a man in his mid forties compete against his children on a level playing field. You may point out that I have been playing these console type games for well over 20 years (indeed much longer if you could call the ZX Spectrum a pre-cursor for consoles) and that this gives me a slight advantage when I am zooming around some racing circuit in Japan or playing a deft one-two on the edge of the penalty box as Bohemians FC defeat Barcelona (see I am handicapping myself) once more. In my defense, I do often play collaborative games with my sons against the computer AI and will often go through detailed slow motion replays explaining where they invariably went wrong. Well they have to learn somewhere.

Those of you who are regular followers of the blog will know that last week I received a bean-to-cup coffee machine as a birthday present. Well this week Niki (who is also quite competitive by the way) struck back by purchasing a soda stream. Actually this nearly got me more excited than my own present. My childhood friend Conor had one of these amazing contraptions and it would be a veritable treat to see what wonderful concoctions we could make out of his available flavours, hmmm a lovely Canada Dry ginger ale and cherry cola melange! Niki says she bought it so she could stop buying plastic bottles of sparkling water but while the cat is away myself and Ella will be trying out some mixology!

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