| 16.7°C Dublin

Winning the game of competitive parents

WHAT'S the opposite of competitive? Passive? Indifferent? Content? After three kids it's kind of hard to remember.

Having sailed through life with a few personal goals achieved along the way, parenthood catapults the most mild-mannered of people into a whole new world of competitiveness.

Whether you admit it or not, becoming a parent turns life into one great competition. Before you know it, you're sizing up other toddlers and jealously regarding their impressive vocabulary/hours of sleep/ability to walk early.

Almost overnight, counting becomes a big part of your life. How big is junior's vocabulary? When did they start talking? What's the story with Little Miss Chatterbox down the road who's the same age yet can string whole sentences together while your little darling's still working on woof and Dada?


And don't mention sleep. How many hours they doze for. How often they wake at night. How long their midday nap lasts. A good sleeper is the most coveted of babies and comes with instant bragging rights. Woe betide the smug parent who dangles this boast before the dark-circled eyes of a sleep-deprived mummy.

Walking is another of those funny areas that releases a competitive streak. Given that all healthy babies will eventually master the art of perambulation, it's ridiculous that so many of us fret about their progress.

Baby books offer guidelines which can alarm the parents of late bloomers. While some babies can walk by 10 months, many can take up to 15 months before they start wobbling around on their own two legs.

Studies have linked late walking to smart kids, which makes great ammunition for any jibes that come along from friends 'concerned' at your child's penchant for bum shuffling at 14 months.

Once baby passes major milestones like walking, and sleeping through the night, you can expect to be knee-deep in a culinary tug-of-war at mealtime. No doubt bestie's little darling will be chowing down on homemade fish pie, risotto and curries, while you're still trying to get junior off those jars of bland food.

Once they start school they're old enough to be competitive on their own, which means you've now got a partner in crime. Lunchboxes are good places to start, allowing you up the ante and spoil your little Junior Infant without breaking school rules.


Sweets and treats may be banned but you're damn sure your tropical fruit salads are going to outshine the other kids' apples and bananas. (The gloss soon wears off, as you peel pineapples at 7.30 in the morning, so enjoy the thrill while it lasts).

Just as you think you've got the hang of this competitive thing, you'll find your school-goer comes home some day upset that they didn't win/can't run as fast as their buddy. And there it is -- the reality check. You'll quickly set about unlearning all those competitive habits of old as you strive hard to impart a positive message: "It's not about winning, darling, it's about doing your best and taking part."