The other day I came across the phenomenon known as competitive parenting. I don't know why I've never seen this before, perhaps it's because my family are notoriously non-sporty. I was in a playground with my 3-year-old enjoying his over-confidence with climbing when suddenly from behind I heard the voice of a middle-aged Eastern European man yell: "You climb too Alex!"
There was Alex, a little older and a little taller than my lad but a little bit behind him in the confidence stakes. Jeez, I thought to myself, why is that bloke yelling at his kid?
Soon my Theo was at the top of the structure and looking out at the fireman's pole. I stood close by as I always do, watching his every move.
"You're a bit small for that," I said, thinking he wouldn't attempt it for the massive lean-out-and-grab manoeuvre he'd have to achieve in order to slide down.
"Why don't you go down the slide?"
Evidently that was enough for Theo's strong will. Determined to defy or impress ... or both, he leapt out and clung to the pole like a clip-on Koala.
"Wow, good job!"
He slid down to my arms and then I released him after a hug.
"You go down Alex!" Came the thundering voice now beside me.
Alex was lurking by the pole but clearly didn't want to go down it.
"You must go down ze pole! Do it! Do it!"
What is this? A military training school for toddlers? Welcome to Full Metal Nappies.
I decided to take my boy away before this tyrant of a father could see him attempt the monkey bars.
Maybe something about this competitiveness had an effect on me because the next day I entered my other son in a Lego Chima Speedorz tournament. It was a case of being at the right place at the right time: we were at the Lego store and it was 4pm.
Finn didn't want to take part but eventually he gave in. For the next hour and a half my wife and I watched argumentative children and pushy parents as they fought the rules and controlled the tears of their little darlings. Finn was super cool, like his name, not bothering if he won or lost. As it turned out he got to the final. He may not be a sporty kid but by Jove he's got some skill. He was eventually beaten by an older dude, a kid who suspiciously looked like an adult little person.
"Oh well," said Finn.
"What do you mean 'Oh well'? You vill return next week and try harder!"