The Game of Life

By Stuart Lancaster 2019-05-31 17:38:48

The student becomes the teacher


The Game of Life


I cannot deny that I am competitive. I grew up with a brother and a father where we competed at everything whether it be snooker or ping pong – that was the nature of my upbringing and it seemed healthy. Now my son is old enough to enter the realms of competition and I can already feel the unhealthy beast of a competitive parent riling up inside me.

Living in China, away from my family, I have suppressed this competitive nature and adopted a more Zen-like approach to my existence. But when I visited my son’s music class, this competitive side almost came flooding back – though thankfully my wife was there to check this monster.

It was a normal music class and we were singing do-re-mi and using various xylophones in a jovial way. The lesson all builds up to the game which just happened to be musical chairs. I noticed that some of the children in the class were a little older thus putting Arthur at a disadvantage. His chances were slim but I was there to support him.

The game progressed and he continued to make it to the chairs even though there were very few remaining. I was proud that he had grasped the rules so quickly and he was ready to go for the last chair. As I saw him gliding towards the chair in his full heroic glory, I noticed the other larger boy shove him sneakily off balance and steal the glory to take the winning prize. Somehow nobody saw this shove and I thought that I should intervene, perhaps as a third party adjudicator. But nobody seemed to be interested in my opinions. I thought maybe we could replay the final round as an injustice had taken place.

As I was ready to share my opinions with the music teacher in a more abrasive manner my wife suggested I take a minute to calm down. Then I realised that I was getting carried away. My son Arthur had already moved on and was now concentrating upon some other toy. He had moved on but I had not. I was affected by musical chairs. I had fallen prey to the parenting monster that wants our children to succeed, for the world to be fair and just, for them to experience the glory of winning. But I wanted to set a good example for Arthur. I had to talk down my inner child into calm, to forget such a meaningless thing and be patient, ready to teach him – when he's older – about how to deal with not winning, to deal with getting pushed over. Although he didn't seem to care, as he was already happily playing something else. It seems that he was the one that already knew how to deal with life, while I was the one stressing about it.

This pleasant reversal showed me that his personality is already equipped for the future. Maybe I should take lessons from him when he's older. Perhaps not at musical chairs though.

Photo by Silver Cloud

Nanhui Road, Nanjing West