Continuing our mini-series on “celebrating the ways my kids are like each, but could not be more different from me!” (AKA, “Learn to love your differences with your adopted kids—because there’s bound to be a ton of them.”)

This week’s topic: Competition.

Being sort of a “lefty hippie peacenik,” I think it’s fair to say I don’t have a competitive bone in my body. On the rare occasions where I do something competitive, I might go all out to win, but it’s based on challenging myself—not about beating anyone else. When I bowl—one sport I actually enjoy participating in, as opposed to just watching—all I’m looking at is the distance between my score and 300. (For the record, this distance is usually a substantially large number.) I probably wouldn’t even notice my opponents’ numbers if modern alleys didn’t flash them Vegas-style on big screens. I am ridiculously gracious in defeat and even more ridiculously consoling in victory. I never want anyone’s feelings to be hurt. (Cross-reference: Ways Daveon and I are alike.)

If you ever see my kids participating in athletics out in the world, you might be under the false impression that they are just like me. At both baseball games and cross-country meets, Daveon spends more time wishing kids on the other team good luck than he does warming up (which I’m sure has nothing to do with his lack of spectacular success). And even in the supposedly prima donna world of figure skating, Mark considers his closest competitors good friends, to the point where his coach often has to remind him to try and limit his socializing until after his events are over.

But against each other? There is some serious Jekyll-and-Hyde action going on, folks. By which I mean, both public Dr. Hydes suddenly discover their inner beasts. Square them off together, and it’s “Just Win, Baby”—at all costs. (Yes, we root for the Raiders, as painful as that usually is.)

They will cheat a mini golf, at video games, at finishing a book. This led to charming exchanges like:

“What page are you on?”

“What page are you on?”

“I asked you first.”

“Well I asked you second, and two is higher than one.”

And so on, until one of them (guess who?) inevitably got tired and tossed out: “Page 83.”

Wouldn’t you know it—his brother always managed to be on page 85.

Probably competing to see who can rock faster

Probably competing to see who can rock faster

When they used to cook together—another story for another time—it was a competition to see who could make the most dumplings. If I ever needed anything to get done quickly, the easiest way was to ask: “Who can get their room cleaned up first?” I should have bought a supply of plastic trophies.

It’s not just the obvious stuff—there are more subtle forms as well. If one kid does well at an event or on a test, the other one chimes in with how he would have done just as well, or probably better. A variation is, “Oh yeah, when I did [some version of whatever you just mentioned], I got an A/gold medal/letter of commendation from the President.” Given that none of these stated achievements took place in the years we were together, it’s fair to say that my kids accomplished more by ages 4 and 6 than most of us could ever hope to tackle in a lifetime. They are the world’s greatest self-invented prodigies.

(I am eternally grateful that they never ended up competing against each other in the same organized sport. If they were both ice skaters, every day would be another Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan episode.)

As with many things related to the boys, as they have gotten older, this intense “beat your brother at all costs” attitude has lessened. I’d like to think that this is a sign that each can defer to the other more gracefully. But I think the truth is that their lives have become so separate and individual—they don’t even cook together anymore—that there aren’t really any overlapping areas within which to compete. Maybe for my 50th birthday I will set each kid the task of coming up with his own gift to me. If the competitive fire kicks in, I could make out pretty well.

Next: Caught

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