Yesterday afternoon my husband and I went down to the pool for some laps. We used to try to do a lot of sports activities together (pre-parenting days), and yesterday was the first again in a looong time. Miraculously, both girls took a nap; Sam must have been exhausted because she succumbed to sleep. She had dropped this part of her ritual two months after she turned three.
We left our snoring brood under the supervision of their yayas, and went on our swim “date” (Any time we spend together without the kids, even if it’s just at home, is what we consider a date). It was during this time when I realized I’d forgotten how competitive my husband was. Is.
A lot of our dating day memories came swimming back (so to speak). He once took me on a Par 42 mini-golf date, and hedged bets on every hole. There was even an over-all score prize (payment of the golf fees plus ice cream), all of which I agreed to quite willingly. Of course I lost (My husband doesn’t believe in letting a girl win just for the heck of it). I ended up paying for that entire date and the ice cream; and I realized in retrospect that the odds were against me from the beginning; He played golf regularly, whereas I had three thumbs on each hand. I wasn’t given any handicap whatsoever!
He also enjoyed challenging me to Scrabble games, and more often than not his score would be double my own (This is me losing more bets along the way. Why did I not see this before?!). After a while it got tiring because I could already predict that I’d lose, however he insisted we play and that I practice. Incidentally, he’d been playing with his aunts since he was 8, and that gave him a 17 year head start to my novice attempts.
I could go on, but the theme of the story was always the same: He would challenge me, propose a bet, and I would gamely accept. I never looked at “odds” — I’d just compete. I always thought that I would and could beat him at one point. Occasionally I did. That probably kept my “game face” going because now that I think about it, my wins were really rare and far between. Sometimes I was arrogant enough to double the stakes. It’s safe to say I was quite the competitive person too.
Going back to the present day swim date under the scorching heat, my husband proposed we race to the other end of the pool. I know (from 15 years’ worth of experience) that he’s faster than I am at freestyle, while I out-stroke him in breaststroke. Surprisingly though (to me) I didn’t want to race. I agreed that it would get up our heart rates, but we could do that without having to race one another, and just go at our own pace. It took a bit of coercing on his part for me to agree, and even after I did and he won, he said he noticed that I didn’t “try as hard”.
It wasn’t that I knew I was going to lose (I would have normally tried anyway), I just felt — tired. As I began to swim at my own pace again, I thought about how much my game-face attitude had waned and changed. I’d always been the competitive, benchmarking type of person; and I carried this trait over a lot of aspects in my life. I surprised myself when I realized I didn’t care much for it anymore, and it really made me think and wonder why.
My entire perspective must have shifted after I had Sam. In other words, after I officially became a mom. Somehow in the course of being a mom to her, and then eventually to Jamie, I just stopped wanting that “stressor” in my life. Maybe raising two girls was zapping away all my adrenaline, I don’t know. It just wasn’t as thrilling anymore as it used to be. Maybe it’s because I’ve aged and I know my limits, and how far I can go. I think that when I pushed the girls out, I pushed this part of me out as well. I suppose it worked in my favor, because moms (as we know and never admit) while we support each other, we’re also the first people to compare and judge other kids and other moms to our own. I didn’t want to benchmark or compare my parenting or my kids’ development and progress to anyone else’s, I just wanted to be that mom who gave them what I thought was best. In a way, I became more focused on them and less concerned with everything else.
I used to live and breathe a life of comparison and benchmarking. Coming from a corporate career track where our mantra was “to overtake and dominate, to steal market share, to change the game and be THE number one product in the category,” how could I not apply that to my daily life ? When I think about it now, I am nowhere near that type of person any more. I believe there’s enough to go around for everyone, and we can all amicably get along. We’re all good at something, and the world needs a little bit of all of that – all in our own space and time. Of course, that doesn’t translate into sales (which is probably why I don’t think I can go back to my corporate life!).
A little bit more idealist than realist? Probably. But it’s what I try to teach my kids, and I want to lead by example. There’s no need to clamor about being first all the time. Share and take turns. There’s always enough to go around. Be graceful about losing. How you played the game is more important than winning. Focus on your strengths and appreciate those of others. I loved this about my Chapel Hill life and it was easy to practice on a daily basis. That must have sealed the deal and kicked the living daylights out of my competitive mojo, because now I can’t see it any other way. I miss it too.
I’d rather we go at our own pace, and do what we feel we want to in that moment in time. Healthy competition is acceptable; meaning that it is something that can teach a lesson or reinforce a value, but if my kids don’t want to do that, then I’m totally okay with it. They can learn it in other ways. (Side note: In terms of their developmental milestones, I still read up on them to see if they’re within the normal range of development. It’s important so I don’t miss key symptoms that could lead to something we can’t fix in the long run).
Maybe if I had boys, I’d see thing differently? Maybe I’d feel I need them to learn how to survive in a dog-eat-dog world, because society and traditional culture still dictates that they play in this bubble. I don’t know. Maybe that’s why I don’t have boys. But I am happy to see some of my friends who try to teach them otherwise.
In a way, it’s good that my husband is competitive and I am not (as competitive). We can provide our girls with a balance and the girls can experience both sides. And if they turn out to have that competitive drive in them, then why not? I’m not against it; I just don’t see it as the only way for them to move forward in life.
Yes, Motherhood has really changed me. Hopefully it’s all for the better.