B’s class at school has been learning about the events in the ancient pentathlon as part of their Greek History block. The kids will be in a mock competition in a few weeks and the staff obligingly held a little training session for the parents so we could learn how hopeless we are at javelin- and discus-throwing.
Not that it wasn’t interesting. Besides setting off all kinds of inner flashbacks about my own childhood athletic failures, I also learned something about how I handle competition.
The group tried a watered-down version of Greek wrestling, which was basically standing in a ring of chalk with another parent and trying to push each other out. I gamely got into the ring with another equally game mom and immediately felt like a gazelle locked in a cage with a panther. She was in it to win — not badly, not meanly — but she was strong and not fooling around.
What was I in it for? Who knows? I hadn’t thought about it. So I panicked. Panic A was “Oh s**t, I’m not strong enough to win!” Panic B was “Oh no, what if I hurt her feelings?” But I wasn’t going to lose either, so I fought back, a little bit.
We ended up in a stalemate, called for time. I have no idea if I could have won, but I noticed that I did summon enough strength not to lose. An intense instinct for survival came hurtling to my rescue, and I tied one hand behind its back because I wasn’t sure yet what I wanted to do.
Watching B play soccer this morning reminded me of this. One girl kicked the ball straight into another’s chest, immediately stopped and apologized in a squeaky little voice of horror, her hands to her mouth and the game temporarily forgotten.
We do this. I do this. And the immediacy of physical “fighting” made it all more real. I’m glad B and L both have played more contact sports than I did so that they can start to work this out. There is much good in not having a killer instinct — let’s always check and see if others are ok — but this tea-party demeanor can get in the way too.
So I’m left with mulling over my instincts. What will I do to win? Can I change what seems pretty deeply embedded? Of course, “winning” needs to be fairly well defined, but since I tend to prefer tea-party land (“No, no — you first!), I’d like to parse out this difference between not losing and solid achievement so I can make use of each skill as I chose. And then, give that gift to my girls. Because winning’s a good thing too.
This post is part of a series of posts on trust, based on the 21-Day Salutes originated by blogger Colleen Wainwright. The intention is to write daily to help shift a habit. Originally, she had been told that it takes 21 days of new behavior to change a habit. She has since found out that it is apparently takes much longer. Oh well….