It's getting close to tax time again, so I decided to email our guy to see if he would be able to do ours this year. He normally takes a few days to respond, so I waited. The next night I get a phone call from him at 10 p.m. My first thought was, "Wow, that's a quick turnaround for him." Then he started talking.
It wasn't "I got your email and, sure, I can do your taxes." Instead, it was "I got your email, now let me tell you how much better my child is than yours." He has a son that's two months younger than our daughter, so it's only natural for our conversation to turn to the kids. However, I was not anticipating having to talk about my child like she was an MMA fighter about to face her next opponent. "Let me tell you, what she lacks in speed she makes up for in reach. Her ground game is deadly, and she has the most intimidating goatee in the league. I think she's got a solid shot of winning this one."
He wanted to know her height, her weight, her favorite Abba song. Each answer was compared against his son's own stats. If she was 22 lbs., he was 23. If she was trying to walk with our help, he was training for an upcoming baby 5k fun run. Then he brought up reading, and how he had been doing that for his son for 20 minutes a day since he was 5 weeks old. I can't lie, most of what I was doing for our daughter at 5 weeks was willing her to stop being fussy. We read to her here and there, but it wasn't the most important thing on our minds. She needed to calm down and sleep consistently so that we could get some rest too. We've since got her on a solid sleep routine, and part of that involves reading her a bedtime story. We have plenty of books around the house for her, we try to read to her when possible, and she's even taken up turning the pages for us. She seems to enjoy it, and I like reading to her, but I don't feel like she needs to be able to recall the ISBN of the book we're reading like our tax guy's son can.
I knew this would happen eventually, the whole competition thing. I'm not terribly competitive by nature, and the wife will only get that way if you challenge her to a game of Super Puzzle Fighter II on the Playstation. Do I want our child to excel in the things she does? Of course, but I also don't want to pressure her into being the best at everything. I don't want her free time to be filled with flash cards and pop quizzes (unless we're watching Speed, then we can totally have a pop quiz). I'm also not naive and realize that we are the ones that have to help her develop the skills she needs to succeed in the world and in academics.
I want her to enjoy reading, I want her to be successful in school, I want her to beat her mom in 2 rounds of Puzzle Fighter. But I also want her to enjoy her childhood. I want her to explore, create and revel in discovering the world and what it means to live in it. I want to see her eyes light up when she solves something on her own successfully, congratulate her on the many achievements she will surely have and cheer for her when she's in the octagon and puts our tax man's son in a choke hold so overwhelming that he has to tap out.