Generally when I compete against my kids I don't always play to win. During foot races I tend to slow down at the end so that we tie. If playing cards or a board game, I point out their mistakes and give them "do-overs" and use it as a teachable moment ("had you moved your Knight there you could have taken out my King").
It's not that I am not a competitive person. At work, I want to be the best. As a parent, I keep waiting to get the World's Greatest Dad trophy. When I play video games, I get excited when I move on to a new level of Candy Crush.
Yet with sports, I am more into the love of the game and the enjoyment of playing. When playing team sports, I don't get stressed out if I lose. Perhaps it comes from the fact that I wasn't the best at hockey or baseball and that I would take a lot of crap from the other kids who were faster, more coordinated and more talented than I was.
So when it comes to my kids - especially my girls - I have a huge soft spot for them especially when competing. I am sensitive to their feelings. I don't want to crush their spirit or discourage them. I don't want them to give up before they have begun.
And it's because of that soft spot that I got my a#$ kicked.
I first came to the dawning realization that my kids did not play by the same rule book as me when I competed against my 9 year old daughter in a game of Punch-Out!! on the Wii. For those of you who don't know it - Punch-Out!! is a boxing game that was released over 30 years ago. In the game, you play an up-and-coming boxer named Little Mac who fights his way to become the heavyweight champ.
As a kid, I was pretty decent at the game and that, plus the Rocky movies, got me into boxing, a sport that I dabble in to this day (though mostly with a heavy bag in the basement). Needless to say, when I played the game head-to-head against my daughter, Veruca, I considered myself to have an advantage.
As soon as the bell rang to mark the first round, I let Veruca's fighter hit me a couple of times. Just to get used to things. And then when I went to hit her back, not only did I miss but she hit me in the stomach. Then she kept hitting me until I went down for a 3-count.
Figuring the lesson was over I tried to fight back, but it was no use. She was just way too fast. On top of that, she managed to power up to become GigaMAC - a hulking version of her character - and continued to hit me with superman punches on top of my head until my fighter went down for a KO.
I'd gone easy on my daughter. I thought she was soft and couldn't handle losing. I was wrong. As much as I cared about her ego, it seemed she had little regard for mine. I still can hear her laughter after laying down punch after punch on me. She was faster than me and had a killer instinct.
Now when I compete against my kids, I treat the experience differently. I respect their abilities by giving my all. Not because I am trying to beat them, but because I know that they will one day be stronger and smarter than me.
I know they have it in them to take on the world, one round at a time.
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