The Competitive Gene

Last summer was Flea's first school sports day.

I watched from the sidelines as my daughter took part in the egg and spoon race, the 100 metre sprint, and some weird relay involving hoops and bean bags, the rules of which I couldn't really follow.

But my favourite part of the day was watching how Flea came in last in every single event but was still completely thrilled with her own performance. I watched her running back to join her classmates after the relay race, and saw her mouthing, "Yay Me!" to herself.

As far as Flea was concerned, she'd tried hard and had fun – she was a winner.

But in the 12 months since that day, that unshakeable confidence has wavered somewhat, as Flea becomes aware of the concept of 'winning' and 'losing'.

Flea is painfully aware that her best friend Zara is taller and stronger and faster than her – and when they run races, Flea quickly gets upset because she never wins.

As a Mum, my instinct is to cheer Flea up and tell her it doesn't matter if she loses; that it's just about having fun. But is it? 

To be brutally honest, I'm a ridiculously competitive person. I really, really hate to lose. I'm gracious about it on the outside, but it doesn't sit easily with me. That's not a bad thing, necessarily – it means I'm willing to work harder and do what's needed to make something happen. Professionally, my competitive instinct drives me to find the best stories, get commissions for the best newspapers or come up with new ways of doing things, whether that's listing blogs or running awards programmes. It's helpful, then.

There are some signs Flea may have inherited my competitive streak. Today, she came home from school and told me that she had been playing races and she wasn't as fast as Zara or Charlie. "But I was faster than Natasha which is surprising because Natasha is six, and I am only five and a half," said Flea, flushed with triumph and pride. "I can hardly believe that I was faster, Mummy." 

So, here's what I wonder: do you teach your kids about healthy competition and that it's okay to like to win and hate to lose? Or do you try to teach them to value things as fun opportunities to take part?


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