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Friday, May 13, 2011

The Race Against Each Other

Deep down, I think I've always been competitive.

I remember in elementary school when we'd have the weekly spelling bee and my overwhelming desire to be the last girl standing.  I would harbor such disappointment in myself if I made a silly mistake and had to take a seat before the end of the tournament.

I was never really athletic and didn't play organized sports so winning trophies and ribbons was never really in the cards for me.  However, there was a time in high school, I believe in my junior year, where I had lost enough weight and got enough confidence to try out for cheerleading.  Looking back, I really don't know where I got the balls to do that seeing as I was competing with all of the good-looking, skinny girls.  But, I had always loved gymnastics and could do a cartwheel, round-off, and split at the time.  Needless to say, I didn't make the squad.  But, damn, at least I gave it a try.

So, I stuck with the academic side of life.  I had a tendency to compete with my brother as far as who could bring home the best report card.  Really, he wasn't much competition.  That's not to say he isn't a smart dude.  He just didn't like to study.  Having good grades was something I used to build my self-esteem.  I even tried to use it as a ploy to get attention and recognition from my parents.  Didn't quite work.  I was really proud when I was nominated for the National Honor Society in high school.  Sad thing is, I didn't make it.  Probably because I was too quiet and not popular enough.

These days I seem to get my competitive jollies through Facebook games like Bejeweled Blitz and Who Wants to be a Millionaire.  It seems that every week when the previous scores are refreshed innately I have to be one of the first to play and to post the highest score.  I'm just not happy if I'm not in the number one spot.  I guess it's the forum I use to show off my skills.  Even when we watch shows like Jeopardy as a family, I am always trying to be the first to answer and I keep tally of how many answers (questions) I get correct.

I've been unsuccessful in instilling this sense of competition with my boys.  Each of them individually have never really had the desire to 'be the best'.  And, let me tell you, it's been frustrating as hell.  Especially when they were young and would 'compete' during the summer on the city of Raleigh swim team.  They really didn't mind going to practice three times per week but when it came to the swim meets?  My god, at times I felt like I was the only one who cared whether or not they finished the race.  But, they did get the ribbons.  I'm just not sure if they got the same satisfaction that I did when I saw how many red, white, or blue ribbons they received at the end of the season.  In retrospect, they couldn't care less if they even got an orange ribbon which signified that they participated in the race and didn't make the top eight.

The same thing holds true for grades and report cards.  Even though I would bug them to study hard so that they could get all A's it just didn't make the top of their priority list.  They are usually too busy living and enjoying themselves.  Besides, I tell them I love them every single day.  I guess there is no pressure for them to seek my approval or affection by coming home with a 4.0.  They know I love them no matter how their report cards look.  And, may I just interject and say that for the most part their academic achievements have been wonderful.  Both of my boys take advanced and honors courses so they're not just flying by the seat of their pants.  They are smart kids.  But, damn, it does feel great when your kid makes the Honor Roll!

This most recent quarter Nicolas made straight A's for the first time in his academic career.  And it felt wonderful as his parent to admire his achievement and bask in the glory.  I am so proud of him. What do I attribute his success to?  I believe this year, with his brother away at college, he has limited distractions.  For a period of time we limited his access to video games to long weekends and vacations.  He's gained a sense of confidence within himself due to his dabbling in acting and the entertainment industry.  Deep down, I think he knows how much I value proof and documentation that he takes school seriously and is working hard on his academics. 

In preparation for high school (the serious years) I hope he realizes that in the end he's only competing with himself.  He should look at his classmates and academically gifted peers and use them as an incentive for him to be the best that HE can be.

In the end it is a race that is run within ourselves.

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