The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

The Demons Within

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.

Oh no.

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)


savannah said...

*LOL* you had me! i thought, oh lordy, what's happening? fantastic post, sugar! i absolutely loved it! and no, i am not going to admit anything..those days are long behind me...*snickering and KNOWING how it feels*

ADW said...

Well put Kim. Hello, my name is ADW and I am a soccer mom.

The above statement just made me vomit.

oddmix said...

So the burning question in my mind is... Did your opponent land face down in the mud? ;)

Julie said...

Oh, I know you. I've seen you at various soccer, basketball, and baseball games. At least you're not coaching (or reprimanding) your child from the bench. It's so exciting to see your child do well, even when they don't win the match. Way to go Meg!

Kav said...

How apt then that your word verification was kimsabetterdaddythanyou.

PI said...

A thought provoking post - for me - about the demons. I hope Meg enjoyed it. I'm sure she would have loved having Daddy shout encouragement. Sports Day can be horrendous. My sister was fast and I had lead in my boots. At least the parents were at work so didn't witness my inadequacy. Them days are over thank God!

Mary Witzl said...

Great post!

Your secret is ugly, but now it's out. And you can work to change yourself, believe me!

We all have this in us, Kim. I strive to be diffident about my kids' successes and failures on sports day, but I will never forget the sense of rage I felt when I saw children cheating in the egg-and-spoon race, and no one else watching seemed to notice it or care. It was awful to see the cheaters publicly rewarded when my child had behaved impeccably and came in close to last. I felt like a phony telling her that virtue was its own reward when what I really felt like doing was whacking the 'victor' over the head with her prize.

I've been meaning to post something on sports day in Japan, and just reading your post has inspired me to do it.

BStrong said...

Well done. It sounds as if you have your addiction under control. You didn't tackle any of the kids in front of Meg to give her the win, and you didn't give the authorities a reason to arrest you.

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

This is serious. It's obviously infectious and sweeping through your family like wild-fire. Everything must be done to contain this sickness. You may all need to be put in quarantine for a few weeks until authorities have deemed it safe for you to be amongst the public again. It's tragic to see people speeding up and eventually racing down the pavement to be the first to the post-box. Pitiful really.

Godspeed, my friend. I hope your troubles leave you soon.

Brave Astronaut said...

(audience responds) HI KIM! In this day and age (or our age, for that matter), finding the fine line between support for our children and winding up in the newspaper (there are many stories of that here in the US - father beats up referee for some egregious call) is difficult.

As my son is but two and a half, I have time to work on my demons. Thanks for letting us all in on yours. You set an example for us to follow.

And good show on the Tug-O-War!

Attila The Mom said...

Wow you look so svelte! Hooray on the win!

Eryl Shields said...

I've never quite understood that 'it's the taking part that counts' thing: why would anyone want to just run with an egg in a spoon? Or run at all if not to get somewhere as fast as possible? Which means faster than everyone else as far as I'm concerned.

So Kim, I don't think you have anything to worry about. And well done for your victory.

Moose said...

I'm now beset with the thought there is a massive downside to losing are we ex-fatties going to cope with losing the tug of war for the first time in our lives. I've always been quite partial to being the natural first choice as the immovable anchor man!

Kim Ayres said...

Savannah - thank you :)

ADW - Soccer Moms are not a phenomena here in the UK, as soccer is taken as seriously as your Amercian Football. I've only really begun to learn about soccer moms since I began blogging

Oddmix - I couldn't see because our team ended up flat on our backs

Julie - they're not all me - we operate as part of a franchise...

Kav - :)

Pat - Rogan took a wee video clip of me in the 2nd round and you can briefly see Meg bouncing up and down clapping here hands in the background

Mary - In my first post about Sports Day, I bang on at length about how as kids we think we'll be struck by lightening if we cheat, yet on Sports Day the teachers don't seem to care.

I look forward to your piece about a Japanese sports day

BStrong - hmmm, you're giving me ideas for next year...

Sam - it's too late. It appears I picked up the infection the day my first child was born.

Brave Astronaut - Even though your son is two and a half, if you check your reactions when you see him with other kids his age, you'll realise that already you're comparing and hoping that he'll get one up on the others.

"Know Thyself..."

Attila - it's all in the lighting. I'm still about 20lbs overweight

Eryl - I've always felt too that if you're ging to play you may as well play to win, but that only works if you have a choice about whether you play or not. The problem with School Sports is you're forced to compete regardless of whether you know it's pointless.

Moose - I must admit I was all ready to take up the post of anchor man, then realised that at least 3 guys on my team were in fact heavier than me. It came as quite a shock

eva said...

I'm surprised you look so calm and jolly-go-lucky in that picture - I was expecting bulging red eyes and fire & smoke coming out of your nose and ears!

Mine is a Gin said...

I'm afraid competitiveness is a family disease ;-)
We all have it in my household, and I blame my father entirely.
And by the way, don't knock it - it's great to see that your energy levels have clearly returned. Long may it continue.

Dr Joseph McCrumble said...

I wish I were even the slightest bit competetive, Kim. Maybe you can teach me?

I'd particularly like to learn how to beat the twins at their own game.

Christina said...

Great post! I bet you jumped up and down and screamed your face blue for Meg, and that is what's count. I can't come up with a addiction I have - so I am probably in BIG trouble... Way skinny there on the pic too.
Cheers fr Austria

Kim Ayres said...

Eva - this was just taking up the slack of the rope. The bulging eyes, fire and smoke came 32 seconds later.

Mine is a Gin - I'm afraid the energy levels haven't returned. I'm fine for burst of energy for a few minutes, but then I'm wiped out for ages afterwards.

Truth is, I wasn't going to enter, but my son was desperate for me to do so and I didn't want to let him down

Dr McCrumble - given your desperation, and success in winning that laptop from Love to Lead, don't try and tell me you're not competitive with a straight face.

Christina - if you can't think of any addictions, either your a saint or you've managed to hide them from yourself really well.

Carole said...

I am not sure why it is bad to be a competitive parent. I think it gives kids a sense of true belonging and love. I do know that some parents are over the top, but I can't imagine you would be. Still, perhaps you could start a support group for those who have the same hidden shame. Well, unhidden now. Not to be competiive, but my hidden demons have your's beat hands down.

A Margarita said...

Congrats! There's nothing wrong with wanting to win and wanting your kids to trounce everyone else. We want them to succeed. I think it's perfectly natural.

eg(scotland) said...

Oh my gosh - is there some sort of therapy available for this? Is there a local self help group you could join?

So long as you don't put other kids down in the process then it's ok to stick up for yours. Heck if you can't, who will.

Loved the photo.

Any other demons?


Kanani said...

Ah yes. The competitive Dad syndrome. I remember getting knocked over once, when leaning in for the last carton of orange juice at the market.

The man had a glean in his eye. I knew not to compete!

Kim Ayres said...

Carole - maybe we should start a competition - get everyone to admit their darkest demons and then have a vote to see whose is the most hideous...

A Margarita - where it all goes wrong is when parents show disappointment in their children for not winning.

EG - I was going to start a self-help group, but some other dads said theirs was going to be bigger and better...

Kanani - you're just lacking testosterone - you should have rugby-tackled him to the floor, head-butted him in the solar plexus and made a run for it with the orange juice!

quinn said...

yeahhhhhh!!! I loved this story..I was rooting right along with much the photo too...

Conan Drumm said...

"kill..Kill...KILL!!" I say, as Drummlet jr takes to the hockey pitch. Has the age group provincial medal now. YESSSSSS!!!! I whisper, not at all triumphantly. Honest.

Carole said...

That would be an interesting contest. But I fear it would turn into, "Who can be the best liar" contest because for the most part none of us (and by that I mean me) would tell the truth about our real demons.

I forgot to mention that the picture is terrific and is clearly a cry from a hidden lumberjack to come out of the closet. You look like you should be on ESPN doing extreme sports, like log rolling.

jotcr2 said...

We all see a bit of ourselves in this story, which makes it funny.

Kim Ayres said...

Quinn - :)

Conan Drum - I'm glad it's not at all triumphantly...

Carole - I'll go out and buy myself a red tartan shirt immediately!

Jo - surely not you too...? :)

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