Over the past few months we’ve had an increasing problem with Nikki and her desire to win or be first. First out the door, first to the car. If she finishes dinner first she yells “I win.”
Until a few weeks ago it was largely contained to beating JD or Brian and I. We would try to cut it off – house rule is if you cry or whine at losing you can’t play games with us the rest of the night. If you gloat about winning you have to apologize and you’re done playing as well.
Then a few weeks ago she was suddenly in competition with everyone and at school was somehow convincing her friends to let her go first all the time when they played together. My final straw came when she almost plowed through two other families to be first to the front door of the school.
I did what some of my friends and I term “hammer dropping,” JD leaves the house first every morning, Nikki is no longer allowed to run ahead of us on the sidewalk but has to stay next to me. Any whining about not getting something first, or about not finishing first gets her a warning and then sent to her room.
So two weeks ago when Brian and I saw that the had its annual Rubber Duck race during the weekend, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to show Nikki how most people are gracious in losing and that she is not always going to win or be first. The Lion’s Club, which uses the proceeds to help fund their own charitable work, which includes Camp Nerden - a program Nikki benefits from directly, dumps over 2,000 rubber ducks into the stream at Brookside Park.
So we took the kids and bought two of the ducks – Brian and Nikki on one ticket and JD and I on the other. We made sure point out the trays full of ducks sitting next to the registration table and talked about how the Club does good things with the money they raise and we were participating for that reason and not to win.
I was feeling a little smug about my plan. And smug is never a good thing.
We “duck watched” at a couple of places along the stream. We laughed as the ducks came over the waterfall and got stuck and then moved toward the finish line.
The kids found a spot they could watch the ducks come around the last bend and into the finish line. So we settled in and I read the numbers of the first duck to reach the final stretch and then we watched as it bumped along rocks and went under a ledge only to not come out again. The second duck to come around the turn took the same path.
As the third duck came down it was staying next to the opposite bank and seemed to have a chance of making it through. It spun so I could read the number “11-75” I called out to the kids. “Oh my God, that’s your duck, Nikki.”
And my sure bet for a life lesson turned into Nikki (and Brian’s) sure bet for a winner as the duck found the current and sped off into the chute.
“I won, I won” filled the air.
And we still need to work more on the gloating when winning.