Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Amazing Race

I’ve noticed a streak of competitiveness in Sean. He’s taken a break from the all-trains, all-the-time, play format to focus on cars, specifically of the racing sort. Any correlation between this interest and the pervasive presence of the movie Cars in our house is not the least bit coincidental.

If he’s playing by himself, he races one car against the other. If he’s playing with his sister, he races his car against hers. It’s quite a sight as they lunge across the kitchen floor with their cars. Of course, since he’s older and bigger, his cars tend to win.

He is not a quiet winner. “I WIN! I WIN!” he shouts. “I win the Piston Cup!” (a Cars reference for those not in the know) “Yeah! Bring out the Piston Cup!” (Fortunately, Allie isn’t quite hip to the zero-sum-game philosophy; when she loses a race, she shouts, “I’m second! I win too!”)

It spills over to other areas, too. When we race outside, he makes up for his lack of speed with a large dose of bravado. I’ve written about his NASCAR approach to riding bikes. Board games always begin with the announcement “I’m going to win!” I explain that we can’t determine at the outset who will be the winner; he ignores me.

And if he isn’t the most gracious winner, he’s an even worse loser. His reaction to a loss? Tears. Lots of tears. Stomping off to another room. Wails of “It’s not fair!” I’ve tried all sorts of coaching to counteract this reaction, but he doesn’t want to hear that playing a game is fun no matter whether you win or lose, that it’s important to be kind during and after a game, that no one will want to play with him if reacts so negatively to losing.

What I think he hears is “Blah blah lose blah blah.”

I’m not particularly competitive. I’ve never played a sport. I don’t understand the impulse to always win, win, win. It’s not that I don’t see the benefits of a competitive mindset; it’s just that I am discomfited by its more negative manifestations. I want Sean to strive to achieve and to do his best. As long as he’s considerate and kind along the way.

Judging from the events of earlier today, wherein yet another simple trip up the stairs was transformed into a mad scramble for first place, it looks like we have our work cut out for us.