Why I Don’t Let My Kid Win
One thing I abhor, even as a bourgeois, overindulgent parent, is the idea of letting my 9-year-old daughter beat me at stuff. When we play against one another, Iâ€™m in it to win. Iâ€™m not going to mysteriously fade out the last 10 yards of an 100-yard sprint, or flail about in the deep end before she reaches the side of the swimming pool before me.
I hate seeing parents condescend to their kids this way. Itâ€™s demeaning to a kid whoâ€™s doing her best to beat you, and itâ€™s also often a lame-ass kind of passive-aggressive cop-out on the part of the parent. (Who hasnâ€™t seen a dad racing his kid at the park, only to lose steam â€“ you can tell by the red face and humid-looking bald pate â€“ and pass it off as a jovialÂ â€œGood race! You really beat me, son!â€ â€“ aka, I let you win.)
In any case, while handicaps are fine â€” hey, they do it at the race tracks â€“ losing on purpose is not.
In other words, having your ass kicked by mom is a positive thing. It shows my child that I take her seriously enough to not condescend to her, and she learns that her momâ€™s not a washout, either.
After all, why should a third grader beat her mom at a foot race? â€œWow, Speedy, youâ€™re faster than me, even though my legs are longer than yours, I work out four times a week, and I just took my Ventolin!â€ Lame. Pardon the ablest pun.
And why should a 36-year-old play Scrabble like a 9-year-old? That would make me borderline illiterate, right? What kid respects a university-educated mom who canâ€™t spell at a junior-grade school level?
And, long-term development-wise, hereâ€™s the thing. Girls and women compete â€“ over popularity, guys, high-visibility internship placements, jobsâ€¦. Unfortunately, it often leads to bitterness and cattiness in our culture.
Even the mother-daughter relationship has been historically been painted with shades of unhealthy competition. The maternal fear of being overshadowed by a daughterâ€™s burgeoning beauty and independence drives every frickinâ€™ fairy tale in our canon: Cinderella, Snow White et al. (Many tales originally featured evil moms, not stepmoms, until the latter hired better PR.)
I think daughters benefit from friendly competition, by moms and well as peers. Friends compete. Someone gets their ass kicked. Afterwards you share beer and wings (or 2% milk and pizza). Itâ€™s no biggie.
Hereâ€™s the messed up thing, though. I was blindly confident that Iâ€™d keep winning until my kid was 11 or 12, but something changed when she turned 9. She was always athletic, but now, itâ€™s like sheâ€™s on a secret diet of multihued, vitamin-rich fruit, veg, dark chocolate (for the polyphenols, obvs) and protein shakes.
Her biceps are like raw baking potatoes. Her abs have that line in the middle that Shape magazine models boast (or get Photoshopped in). She can climb like a spider monkey. She takes my breath away with her athleticism when sheâ€™s making her way up a climb that I canâ€™t even fathom starting, let alone finishing.
We recently joined a climbing gym. Iâ€™m stuck in the baby climbs, 5.7â€™s. But my child is now muscling through 5.9â€™s, after just three weeks! To give you an idea of that level of progress, itâ€™s my goal for three months from now.
At first, my Facebook updates were peppered with jokes about schoolinâ€™ my kid on the climbing walls. But, actually, I’m the one who got schooled. Homeschooled. Early-admission-to-university homeschooled. â€œMaybe you can feed your kid a diet of Twinkies and get her hooked on TV,â€ joked one FB friend. â€œMaybe you can knee-cap her like Tonya Harding!â€ added another.
Nah, Iâ€™m still beating her in schoolyard races and in the swimming pool. (In fact, I recently lifeguard training this winter, in response to her progression in swimming lessons, LOL.)
Anyhow, a funny thing happened en route to the ass-kicking I was planning to deliver. I got crushed instead.
And it felt pretty damn amazing.