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Sport Day Essay Spm About Holiday

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On reflection, it was probably the moment I entered the final stage of my mutation into a competitive dad. I had identified the blue skipping rope as the best one for racing, you see. It was heavier, it gave the skipper greater momentum, more power: it added a certain centrifugal heft.

“Grab the blue one, Eithne,” I whispered, urgently. “Do you understand? The blue skipping rope – that’s the key to this race.” My eight-year-old daughter looked at me like I was mad … but when it came time for the year 3 skipping race, she did as she was told – and duly chalked up a glorious personal best in third place. I was on the finish line, ecstatic, almost in tears. The last moments as recorded on my phone were reduced to a blurry mess in my excitement.

This was Eithne’s fourth sports day: and the first time she had ever come anything but last in any event. As she crossed the line I felt like old man Beckham must have felt when David fired home that screamer against Greece in 2001. I felt how Jessica Ennis-Hill’s dad must have felt in the Olympic Stadium in 2012.

Or on the other hand … I had just become exactly the sort of person I used to hate. The competitive parent, bellowing from the sideline, urging reluctant children on, failing to see that it is supposed to be fun.

This was last Tuesday. On Wednesday it was my six-year-old son Albert’s sports day. Against all of my (British, middle-class, liberal) principles, I did it again – punching the air as he threw himself across the line in the sack race, pipping the highly fancied Josh into second place.

The thing is, I was not the only one. All around me were other parents, similarly shouting and cheering at their mostly embarrassed little ones – and after each race triumphant handshakes, sarcastic congratulations and insincere condolences were offered. (All except for my friend Heather, who missed her son’s victory in the long jump because she was checking her Facebook status to see if anyone had liked her funny cat video.)

Just to be clear – we are not pushy parents or high achievers. In our everyday lives we’re relaxed, easygoing, deeply uncompetitive types. And our children’s school is not the kind of fee-paying breeding ground of future leaders where such behaviour might be expected: it is a standard state primary school where the emphasis on growing up to be a nice person is at least as important as academic progress.

We’re normal: and at countless other sports days this month, other supposedly “normal” parents will be doing the same.

So what happens? What is it about sports day that turns us into these idiots?

Just as in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, it seems there is a savagery lurking beneath the skin of the most civilised of us. One small scratch and our true selves are revealed. That scratch comes most easily through our children – if it’s not sports day, it’s junior orchestra, or grade 1 ballet, or under 9s football … or anything else that pits my child against your child. But scratch a little deeper and it’s ingrained. Beneath the surface of our right-on lives lurk competitive monsters.

Take a scroll through your Facebook feed. Cat videos aside, there’s an unspoken war going on

Take a scroll through your Facebook feed. Cat videos aside, there’s an unspoken war going on – who can be the funniest, who can be the cleverest, who has the most amusingly self-deprecating hangover. There are pictures of idyllic holidays, wonderful dinners, beautiful gardens, crazy parties. There are links to outrageous stories of human injustice across the world and an attendant competition in the comments beneath to prove who among us is the most outraged by that injustice. If you are a parent, there are countless photographs of other people’s children and their latest extraordinary achievements.

None of this is acknowledged as actual competition, of course. And almost everyone I know would be horrified by the thought that they were in any way trying to get one up on their friends. But it is there, nonetheless, the competitive heart of darkness in every British middle-class liberal. Sports day is simply our “getting off the boat” moment – when the savage beneath the civilised veneer finally reveals itself.

The irony is that the children last week weren’t actually that bothered about winning at all. The very people competing didn’t seem to care what happened either way. Eithne is secure and happy enough to know that coming last, or first, or third in the skipping race doesn’t really matter. Albert and Josh are, and remain, best mates, regardless of any stupid embarrassing sack race. And as for my friend Heather – her funny kitten video got more likes than anything I’ve posted on Facebook recently. So I guess she’s the real winner, after all.