I’ve never thought of myself as a competitor. I’m not athletically inclined. On the 9th grade basketball team, I sat with my legs crossed on the bench, daydreaming of becoming Carol Burnett. My disgusted coach would shout at the highest decibel level her manly, stout, body could exhort: “Testwuide, this ain’t a Christmas tea, sit like a man. Pay attention.” What-ever… just puh-lease don’t put me in that game.
I’m not saying I’ve never won anything. I have a few honors to my name. I was voted best dressed in high school. My father beamed when I told him the news. He choked, “Seriously? You only have 82 pairs of shoes and you were still able to pull it off? Wow, Liesl, all my hard work has really come to fruition.”
In kindergarten, my youngest son won the “Most Holes in Pants” award. As his mother I must be able to take a little credit for that. He can't have all the glory. I also might win the prize for worst gifts ever received from a spouse. A few to top the list:
- A vacuum cleaner presented at my 30th surprise party. “Honey, it will be so easy for you to clean up after the party!”
- The always-romantic Guitar Hero received for my 40th birthday and again, (bonus!) for my 41st birthday.
- A memorable note in ballpoint on the back of a McDonald’s receipt for Christmas '05: “Go get yourself an iPhone.”
- A re-gifted Palm Pilot for Mother’s Day '04 still in the original wrapping from when I gave it to him in ’96 when people actually used Palm Pilots. “Hey, you can’t blame me for trying to help you get organized.”
I had a strong recovery and treated myself to a divorce lawyer for my 43rd birthday.
Since my kids have started playing sports competitively, I’ve noticed a slight change in my non-competitive disposition. Well…“slight” might not be an accurate word. I arrive at the game, I look all-cute, I’ve got my soccer mom chair in one hand, a Diet Coke in the other, and I happily greet parents. Then all of a sudden, as the game begins, it’s as if I completely leave my body and a blood-thirsty, unrelenting, loud-mouth maniac takes my place and I want my kids to win, dammit, win!
“Take him out.”
“You’re totally bigger, run him over,”
“For crying out loud, just pick it up”
“Jesus, gain an advantage, use those cleats.”
Much to my surprise, other parents have told me that adding a “honey” to the end of a comment does not effectively dilute its harshness. I don’t know... I kinda beg to differ. I think “Kick him harder, honey” has a ring of compassion to it, right? In any case, it seems I am unable to control this new competitive drive when it comes to my children.
I think this mama bear behavior must develop naturally with parenthood. My mom had it. In 6th grade I was struggling through a flute recital. Not a single note emerged from my instrument. I was just blowing air. It was seriously painful. All of a sudden I faintly heard, “Outta my way. Comin’ through. Lady, move the hell over.” Down from the bleachers, through an audience of 300, raced my mother in her heels and trenchcoat. “O Holy Night” came to a halting stop as she shushed the band director. She turned to me, “What the hell? You’ve got that goddamn flute all twisted.” In a flash she fixed my flute, smoothed her hair, threw back her shoulders and calmly walked back to her seat. She snapped her fingers at the band director and said: “Now take it from the top…honey.”