Relationship, Competition and Ape Hierarchy.

And the winner is the guy without the knife in his back.

          It’s competition Tuesday here at CoupleDumb where the winner gets all of their dreams to come true. Ha! Don’t you wish it was that easy? Instead, how about if we talk about kids, competition and the game? Yes we are being purposely obtuse. We don’t know what the game is either but we have been trying to win it all of our lives.


          Paul says: I was getting the boys out the door this morning. Bobby had his school backpack on and his lunch box in hand. Ricky was carrying a bottle of his morning milk and a stuffed animal. I stopped them at the front door, grabbed my keys and coffee, and said, ‘let’s go’. Bobby push the door open and sprinted to the car. ‘I’m going to win,’ he yelled. The two year old blasted after him. ‘You’re not fast enough,’ he hollered back with an implied ‘bitch’. I had to laugh. At ages 5 and 2, my boys had already mastered smack talk.


          Lee and I have been known to refer to our kids as apes, mainly because they are poop flinging nudists with bad table manners, but there may be some truth to the name on more of a shared genetic level. Like the simians, humans are social creatures with a natural tendency towards creating hierarchy. Bobby knows that mommy and daddy are the bosses, a unified dictator and woe to him if he is caught trying to play one of us against the other. Under us but above him is our 16 year old. She has bureaucratic authority where some things she can authorize and others require a call to the chief.  Bobby has a very tenuous authority over Ricky. As long as he is making good choices, he can be the boss.


          Once we created hierarchy in our household, we created competition. They go hand-in-hand. As I write this, Ricky is sharpening a crayon into a shiv and awaiting his brother’s return. As long as we all survive the coup with our limbs and sanity intact, I do not think that competition is all together bad. When I focus on the success that comes with the challenge and not attach love, real or perceived, to winning and losing, then my children get a little built in catalyst to doing more. Ricky does his ‘homework’ with Bobby. While Bobby does his kindergarten assignments, Ricky sits next to him and draws, colors, makes geometric shapes, and attempts to write his name.


          And Bobby, in order to maintain his superiority, a superiority that he has not figured out is due to his extra three years of life and not the energy he puts in, works a little harder to be the educator. He shows Ricky how to count, read and write. That is the responsibility of being a gracious winner in the ‘who was born first’ race. I think that that is the key. It is an acknowledgement that, even if he does not want his brother to win over him, Bobby wants his brother to win.


          Lee says: The genetic link isn’t only to our banana eating ancestors. Paul is the king of the apes in our household and the only thing he hasn’t taught his boys is how to beat their chests. Between you and me, I just had a realization that in a couple of years, Jeannie will be off to college and I will be alone with these three guys. You can send your condolences to www.facebook.com/coupledumb.


          Aside from his fuzziness and general disregard for hygiene, Paul makes several good points. One point that I would emphasize is for parents to foster team behavior within the home. In the wild, it is only when animals team up that they eat better and have the opportunity to be more prolific due to safety in numbers. In the human world, this also holds true. The stronger the family bond, the stronger a child feels to venture out to be independent. Shy kids are actually insecure kids. It is difficult to be shy when you know that you are safe in your family. 


          Within the realm of competition, you also foster competitiveness within the household, however, outside of the home everyone wears the same jersey. A family is a team. Within the team you can do your power-plays and fight for dominance. This is natural and healthy. Think of puppies tumbling around and biting each other. But outside the home, it is a different story.


          I thank my parents for that lesson. I pity anyone that comes up against us. We may be out of shape and overweight but we make up in physicality with a pure unadulterated drive to win. Kind of like rhinos on a rampage, but nicer and with better hygiene.

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