Parenting Survival Handbook Chapter 8 – Competitive Dad

I’ve been banned from playing any form of game with my sons.

This had been coming really, if I’m completely honest. It all started with my childhood……

*Cue the Wayne’s World Dream Sequence tune and wavy screen effect*

*Record scratch sound effect*

This isn’t the time to sit on the chaise longue and speak about daddy issues and how not getting the Lion-O sword from Thundercats has led to me being a massive idiot.

My wife and I had a conversation a few years ago, when she was privy to my overbearing competitiveness.

It was around the time that the Nintendo Wii was at the height of its popularity. It was the staple of most family homes, bringing together generations as they wobbled in front of massive flat screen TV’s in a vain attempt to get the character on screen to bowl a strike, snowboard down a mountain – or hula-hoop.

My family were no different, aside from my kids were a mere salacious glint in my eye. My niece and I were in the living room a few days after Christmas and we were playing Wii Tennis. The floor had been cleared of the associated detritus that comes with the post-Christmas blues – empty Pringles tubs, sandwich plates that had carried assorted turkey combinations within a bread outfit, and rogue Quality Street wrappers – and the furniture had been pushed to the limits of the room.

The court was ready.

We had already made our avatars – my bald head is a surprisingly good fit for an amateurish Anime face – and we stood next to each other, ready to do battle on a lush green cyber-court.

Before I served the first ball, I looked down at my niece and let her know in no uncertain terms that she would have to utilise every muscle and piece of cunning she had assembled over her six long years on this earth.

I had a match to win.

My niece, meanwhile, had grown a bit bored already and was playing with a new doll in her other hand.

The fool. There could be no distractions in the cauldron of competitive sport.

I vaporised her meek challenge, smashing virtual tennis balls all over the court and every one out of her flailing reach.

Competitive Dad.jpeg


I held my arms aloft after the winning point and wheeled around to my niece, declaring that I’m the Number One, this is my arena and other various smack talk that wouldn’t have been out of place in a wrestling ring.

She simply looked at me and went off to play alone, like it was of no consequence. I knew better though, the nature of the comprehensive loss must have smarted just a little.

I turned around to bask in the adulation from my wife, who rolled her eyes and told me that my prospective offspring would not be allowed to play games with me if I were to do the same thing to them.

This wasn’t a one-off.

All board games, every discipline involved in Wii Sports, I wore the Champions Belt.

Fast forward a few years and the fierce competitive nature that makes me a total arse when playing any form of game has been dulled a tad.

There is an element though, that burns bright within me that cannot be extinguished.

It exists within all dads.

I mean, have you ever witnessed the ‘Dad’s Race’ at a school Sports Day?

I’m fortunate enough to have a few friends that have kids, and this flame of competition is unspoken, yet comprehended. We all know exactly what we are doing, but it needs no words. The moment that it is labelled and pointed out, that is when the whole conversation, perhaps even the friendship itself could go awry.

We discuss the various comings and goings of life with a mini-me. In the majority of these exchanges, we mention things that our respective sprogs have done.

The pride that we feel when talking of these miniature milestones is indescribable and almost tangible. The real magic is that if you were to mention it to someone who isn’t a parent, they would look at you like you had just grown three heads.

My eldest is now starting to say other little words – of his own volition of course, never when we prompt him – and I thought that I would share this.

It was met with an acknowledgement of the achievement and then a verbal gauge. I was told of how their kids had been doing that from an earlier age, and now they were working on becoming a chess Grandmaster.

I am guilty of this too. When talking about my youngest, I proffer the fact that he started genuinely smiling at just a month and a half – far earlier than doctors predict.

He is a prodigy, you see.

When talking about my oldest and how he dribbles a football, I sandwich it in at any given opportunity. I even offered it as a reply in a conversation revolving around the finer points of flatpack furniture during lunch at work a few weeks back.

We can’t help ourselves.

We hold our kids up as a mark of our good work, and that pride I mentioned earlier? It exceeds what we have felt previously with our own achievements. It is so large, so consuming, that we must let it out in a series of grandiose ways – showing videos to colleagues, hastily embroidered scarves that spell out your offspring’s development score – or a string of small gestures and comments.

If you are expecting your first child, no-one ever mentions that you can end up being even more of an annoyance than your friends and colleague thought you were before.

You change, and what diverts your actions previously, are now completely different. You can try and hold in the fact that your kid hummed the first part of the Thomas the Tank Engine theme tune. You can try to keep it to yourself, but you will fail. It will swell within you and expel itself when it pleases.

So, my competitive nature may not have dimmed, but merely transformed. It now must declare to everyone how amazing my kids are.

Whether or not you want to listen doesn’t factor into it.


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