Issue 28

A 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 Eric’s 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.

                It’s not like we’re pushing Skylar.  He’s 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).  It’s 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.  “He’s 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.  “It’s no big deal,” he said.  “It’s 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 “It’s 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.  “I’ve 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 Skylar’s and Ryan’s 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 I’ve 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.  I’m 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.”

                I’m 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 don’t wish ill for either Eric or Ryan, but there can only be one best dad in the world and I’d like to keep that honor in the family.  Anyway, there’s nothing like a little healthy competition to keep me on my toes.

                Just wait till the new year.


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