On the outside, at least, most of us would like to think that we are good people, kind people, people who would do the right thing if we were ever put in a position where such a decision needed to be made.
At the same time we all have demons inside: aspects of our personality that we despise, that we fear, that we are deeply ashamed of. We try to push these demons away, suppress them, force them into the background and hope they never rear their ugly heads.
But as long as we refuse to acknowledge their presence, as long as we pretend they don’t exist, they have control over us. They will manipulate our subconscious urges and desires, while all the time filling us with guilt and self-loathing.
Many therapies and support groups recognise and understand how denial only ensures the stranglehold of shame continues to dominate our lives. Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, require attendees to state their name and admit their addiction. Unless the alcoholism is stated out loud, acknowledged and owned, the addict can continue to believe it isn’t a problem and so do nothing about it.
So in the spirit of exorcising my demon in a public arena, in the hope of freeing myself from the grip of a deep shame I have been denying to myself so strongly that I hadn’t even realised it existed until yesterday, I, here and now, in full view of the rest of the world do admit…
My name is Kim, and I’m a Competitive Dad.
There. I’ve said it out loud, and there’s no doubt I feel extremely vulnerable and guilt-ridden.
Oh, I wish it wasn’t so. This demon has been so carefully hidden from me I had no idea it was there, cloaked as it was behind my loathing for school sporting events (see Sports Day, Sports Day: the Rerun, PE Teachers are Demons from Hell, Rugby and An Enthusiasm for Rugby). But sometimes, something happens to make you realise your attitudes are not as clear cut as you believed.
My usual complaints of other children’s incorrect use of the skipping rope, or holding their thumbs over the eggs on spoons at yesterday’s School Sports Day seemed straightforward enough – it was all about a sense of fair play and an empathised disappointment for the kids who did everything by the book and consequently came in last.
My first clue that all was not as it seemed, however, came when Meg entered the obstacle race. Our hearts sank as we looked at the netting that needed to be scrambled under, the high-visibility vest and washing up gloves to be donned halfway up the track, the egg and spoon, and the final 50 yard dash after discarding all the accumulated accoutrements. Visions of Meg still struggling with the washing up gloves while everyone else was heading for home 3 hours later, dominated our thoughts.
To our great relief, Meg’s classroom support assistant was on hand to lift the net slightly on entry and untangle her on the way out. She also helped Meg slip on the gloves and vest and for a brief moment, Meg was actually in the lead!
Oh wow! Would she, could she, should she keep this up?
Unfortunately the egg and spoon proved too much and, along with a confusion about where to drop everything before the final sprint, she finished in the second half of the pack.
But in that brief moment when I thought she could actually win, all sense of “it’s the taking part that counts” went out the window and I began frothing slightly at the mouth, yelling uncontrollable words of encouragement and victory.
Slightly shaken at this feverish outburst, even then I might have dismissed my behaviour as an aberration rather than a cleverly disguised demon revealing itself.
But final, irrefutable proof comes in the shape of the sole winning certificate of yesterday’s school sports day that now graces our kitchen wall.
It does not come from either of the children.
It is mine from my participation in, and contribution to, the winning team of the Parents Tug-O-War Championship.
There is now no denying that I am in full possession of a Competitive Dad personality disorder.
Mind you, even more startling revelations have since followed.
The photo below was taken by Rogan because Maggie couldn’t bear to watch in case (oh she of little faith) I didn’t win, or I injured myself.
It turns out she is a Competitive Wife!
(In it to win it)