I got kids who play sports.
I got a husband.
I got a husband who plays sports.
I do not play sports. Never have.
It’s no big deal when you are a kid, to not play sports. When you are a kid there are usually other kids around who don’t play, so you gravitate towards each other and stand around together and you don’t play sports.
You read books or go swimming or watch TV or ride bikes or make up games where you are a mom who bosses all the other kids around and they make an arsenal of mud pies and gang up to throw them at you when you are in the play house pretending to make dinner for all your brats.
I called that game “The Future.”
But when you grow into an adult who didn’t play sports as a kid, it can be isolating. Now don’t go all patronizing and coo in my ear, all, “Oh, who cares. Sports are for kids. So you didn’t throw a ball around when you were young. Big deal.” It IS a big deal. Because I live in America, people, where sports are a BIG DAMN DEAL. And if you didn’t play them, you are a weirdo. What’s more, the biggest reason why I didn’t play sports as a kid was not because I am not athletic. I am. It’s because I am not competitive. I don’t care about winning. And when you don’t care about winning, no coach in America is going to want you on his or her team.
If you’ve played sports all your life, you understand competition, and see the world in shades of first, second, and loser. Everything is fair game for a battle, every meeting the opportunity for one-upmanship.
Now look. I’m all in for being the best you can be, for doing well to get ahead, for presenting the best part of yourself to the public. This makes sense to me. It is logical that when one team gets more points than the other team, that team is the winner and the other team is the loser. Every game is a competition. I get it. But I don’t care if I win.
Which makes it easy to play games against me. I do my best, but I won’t go that extra step to be better than you. Why? Partly because I don’t care, but also partly because I know that you want it more than me. It’s how it goes when my husband and I play games. He’s never lost to me. Not once. Not in bowling, cards, video games, board games. Even if I might be winning, when he sees the score, he ramps up his performance to get the edge. He’s the guy on the road who speeds up when he sees you’re about to pass him. And my reaction is always: If you want to beat me, go ahead. I’ll slow down; you can pass.
This way of life has served me well; not much bothers me. There is no competition in my everyday work; no one in my neighborhood is handing out trophies for who has the whitest bath towels. The Mommy Wars roll right off my back. I don’t care if you’re the most Pinteresting mother out there. There’s YouTube to watch and chores to avoid. Come over and I’ll make you my famous yogurt and black coffee breakfast.
However, I do wonder if my non-competitive nature is doing a disservice to my kids. Both of my kids, because they spend more time with me than their dad, have the same kind of accommodating attitude, which can slide into nonambitiousness. Which makes it frustrating when we try to push them to do better. They don’t always see the value in working harder, in testing limits, in doing better to yield better results. Sometimes I realize that this is a hallmark of kid behavior, but sometimes I’m afraid my ultra-cooperative nature has rubbed off on them negatively.
So what’s a gentle mom to do? Yell “KILL! KILL!” at every basketball game, or whisper “Sweep the leg” Karate Kid-style when the other team’s pitcher runs off the field? Should I call them the dumbest kid ever when they fail to get the best score on a test so they are prompted to do better the next time, or boast loudly to others in front of them for getting the best score so they are motivated to always beat their classmates?
Or should I continue to smile at my kids, telling them “Great work, keep it up” when they do well, and “Man, that stinks, at least you know where to improve” when they don’t? Because quite frankly, this is what works for me. Will it work for them? I’m really not sure.