Little Healthy Competition
My neighbor Eric down the street has a son just three months older than
Skylar. Having someone with whom I can share the trials and joys of
parenthood has been a great boon to me; I am able to determine just how
good a father I am in an environment filled with friendly competition.
It all started when my son Skylar began progressing faster than Erics
son Ryan. At seven months, Ryan was able to sit up on his own.
Skylar did it at six. Ryan wakes up during the night for a bottle
and diaper change. Skylar sleeps straight through from 10pm to 7am.
Ryan still sucks on a binky. Skylar is grown up enough to have
refused the binky on his own initiative.
Its not like were pushing Skylar. Hes always been ahead for
his age. In fact, his pediatrician said he was in the 80% percentile
right out of the womb (*based on height and weight). Its like he
wants to grow up as fast as he can. Already he can drink out of any
kind of glass, including beer stines, as long as I help him hold it.
I knew the competition was getting serious when Ryan started talking.
During dinner when we were at their house, Ryan said, Daddy. I
interrupted the adult conversation. Did he just say what I think
he said? Oh yeah, said Eric nonchalantly. Hes
been talking for a week. I made the calculation in my head to
determine the date Skylar has to beat. The advantage of having the
child following means that I have a known target to aim for. But
then Eric made his move. Its no big deal, he said.
Its just a sound to him. He calls the dog Daddy.
It took a moment for his words to sink in. I had always believed,
naively I now know, that once Skylar said, Daddy, that he would know
exactly what he had said and who I was. The words Its just a
sound to him repeated in my head. What a letdown. The
advantage of having the child leading means that Eric gets to ruin all of
the wonderful surprises ahead.
The war escalated with the simultaneous purchase of digital cameras.
Ive taken three hundred pictures of Skylar, I told Eric.
That sounds about right, he said. And how many did you take
last week? Digital pictures of course lead to personal web pages.
Eric has more pictures of his son up than I do, but all the ones with his
dog have red-eye. Recently I purchased an industrial network router
with a full firewall to keep Eric from hacking my site, just in case he
might become so inclined.
Everything came to a head this holiday season. Understandably, since
it was both Skylars and Ryans first Christmas, Eric and I determined
that it should be very special. This is where I think Eric first
crossed the line when he bought up every available light at the three
local Home Depots. Sure, he put them all up, but I had to drive
hundreds of miles to find even half as many. The outside of my house
is beautiful, but Ive had to unplug everything, including the alarm
clocks, to keep the circuits from blowing. Then I found out that
Eric installed a whole new circuit panel just for the lights.
Forty-seven breakers, he said as he showed it to me. Rumor has
it that Eric has to call the electric company to warn them when he turns
his lights on.
Certainly, the most important part of Christmas is how many presents one
gets. Im also partial to quality. I sewed this outfit
for Skylar myself, I told Eric. I bet he liked the box
more, said Eric. And the bow, I conceded. I bought
Ryan a box of boxes, said Eric. All different shapes and
sizes. His room is filled with them.
Christmas morning saw the two of us out early for a walk with our boys in
their new jogging strollers. I put mine together in twenty-five
minutes, without the instructions, I said proudly as we passed each
other. Twenty-two minutes, Eric replied, and I had three
screws left over.
Im not sure where this is all going. Christmas is supposed to be
about the thought that counts and about bringing out the best in each of
us. I dont wish ill for either Eric or Ryan, but there can only
be one best dad in the world and Id like to keep that honor in the
family. Anyway, theres nothing like a little healthy competition
to keep me on my toes.
Just wait till the new year.