All of my life, I have been just a tad bit competitive. That’s a lie. I am probably one of the most competitive people you may ever meet. While I sometimes like to refer to it as loving a challenge, I really flat out just love to win. It doesn’t matter if it is a friendly step count competition, guessing puzzles on “Wheel of Fortune,” competing with a 6 year old in a game of UNO, or my most recent victory of building a boat.
You see, while we were on vacation this past month, the resort we stayed at had all kinds of mid-afternoon fun to keep the kiddos entertained. One day in particular, was an opportunity to build a boat out of cardboard, cut up pool noodles, duct tape, cups and chopsticks. Then, they put them in the water one by one and dropped little fish bowl gems onto the boat to see whose could hold the most.
Somehow it was decided that Daddy would help Reagan and I would help Maylie. And I — I mean we — were going to win! Immediately, I went into action. Making sure to get a thick enough piece of cardboard for the structure, it was clear to me — I mean us — that we should use the pool noodles pontoon style secured with chop sticks to keep it afloat. Sure, Maylie added a cup to one side and a few extra popsicle sticks as a finishing touch, but I carefully made sure that they would not interfere with the boat’s ability to float. After all, we were going to win.
Once “we” finished building our masterpiece, I finally glanced up and looked at Daddy and Reagan’s work. The cardboard they used was way too long with clearly not enough pool noodle pieces to support it. On top of that, there were about 14 chopsticks coming out from every angle as “decoration,” undoubtedly making it heavier and much easier to sink.
What was he thinking? Reagan’s boat wouldn’t stand a chance in this competition. Why wouldn’t Paul do something about this? I mean, she is only 4 and is going to need a little bit of guidance.
But as I watched them finish up, I couldn’t help but notice his patience and pride as Reagan stuck in a few last chopsticks and added a piece of duct tape for good measure. Other than some small assistance from Paul in keeping the boat together, the entire concoction was dreamed up and put into place by Reagan.
As we waited for the chance for the girls’ boats to take on the gems, it was then that I saw the difference in the attitude of my girls.
Afraid to lose, Maylie was nervous. We had to win. After all, Mommy said we were going to win, so it was expected. At this point, her nerves were taking over. She was just ready for her turn and to see my — I mean our — boat float.
Reagan on the other hand, could care less. Yes, I am sure that does have a little bit to do with her age, but the competition wasn’t the fun for her. Clearly, she had her enjoyment during the experience of constructing her masterpiece alongside her daddy.
Reagan’s boat did float that day. In fact, it held way more gems than Paul and I anticipated. She didn’t win. But, she truly did not care.
When it was Maylie’s turn, her boat held more gems than they had available to place on there. She was the first one to empty the bucket while still sailing and she was ecstatic. She won! We won.
But did we really?
While she basked in the glory of being on top, I flipped through my parental failures of the whole experience. As a mom, I would walk through fire to help my kids succeed. But, I cannot build their boats for them forever. What’s more, I didn’t even allow her the chance to use her skills which would have made a victory sweeter or an even greater opportunity to learn from a loss.
The dollar store prize that they handed Maylie was not the highlight of what was won that day. Instead, the eye-opening mishandling on my part was deeply embedded in my lost opportunity file on motherhood.
Always, I will cheer for my babies to win. However, I learned not only do I need to step back and let my girls hold the reins, but the real victory is not in the outcome at all — it is in the experience.
Thankfully, I have a husband who unknowingly helped me grow that day. And, admittedly, this competitive Mama still has a lot to learn about this mom game.
Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her husband, Paul, and their daughters, her writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.