By Daphne Biener
I looked across the lane at my opponent. She scowled ferociously; small, but mighty. Her attempt at intimidation was for naught…at 42 pounds dripping wet I had her by, well let’s just say I had her on weight. The challenge (issued by her) was backstroke, which worked out nicely as I was able to keep watch even as the acreage increased between my flutter kicks and her wind-milling arms.
Confident, I set aside the heat of the competition to savor the moment. Must have been my swollen head keeping me afloat, so full of pride was I. There she was, my baby, propelling herself up and down the length of the Olympic-sized pool, driven by nothing more than a handful of cheerios and an inborn desire to crush me.
Kira, my seven year-old, believes this above all else: She is the best. A far cry better than the meager jokers responsible for the development of said Shining Star.
My super-kid. Never would I stoop to strip her of this magical cloak of invincibility.
Just the opposite; I am thrilled. What parent wouldn’t be? After all, aren’t we in a constant search for better opportunities, healthier foods, cleaner air, and brighter classrooms, all in the pursuit of creating little humans that are indeed smarter, stronger, funnier, and yes, better than we?
My kids are brilliant, wonderful beyond a doubt. It’s just that I have these moments, you see, when the worthy cliché of wanting my kids to best me in every way rubs up against what’s left of my own fragile ego. The one that whispers from my depths: go on, tell her. Tell that molecule of a person-in-training that despite her hefty bag of evidence to the contrary you are neither stupid nor incompetent.
I am not stupid. I know it’s just a matter of time before society pulverizes their sweet egos into inferior girl dust. I hear growls from my inner-mama-bear, and I stand ready to tear nay-sayers limb-from-limb—those who dare tell my children what they can not do.
So did I feel a contradictory twinge then, as I lowered my much-maligned self into the lap pool and pictured my darling daughter smoldering in my wake? Sure I did. I dare not ask to be excused for these feelings.
Always a good sportsman, after the race I kissed my opponent. With genuine loving kindness that would make Betty Crocker seem more egotistical rooster than house-hen, I started to present the obvious explanation for my victory:
“Do you know why I won the race honey?” I held one dripping adult arm next to her skinny goosepimply one, ready to explain that longer limbs make for speedier strokes.
“Yes, Mom, I do.” It is so nice when they beat you to the personal growth punch line.
“Why, sweetheart?” I beamed down at her with pride, as hand-in-hand we moved back towards the kiddie pool and its welcoming warmth.
“You won because you started before me. You cheated, Mom.”
So did aforementioned inner-mama-bear rear up to defend my slandered honor? Nope. But she did suggest that I take a deep breath in. And a long breath out. And extend an offer for a do-over.
Which Kira graciously declined.
You can read more of Daphne’s work here on the mama bird diaries or visit her site, Sestina Queen.