I Win!

I am driving down 41st Street, my eyes compulsively scanning the Capitola Mall parking lot. Traffic is heavy and I should be watching the road. Finally, I spot an old Volkswagen Beetle. "Slug bug yellow! That's two points." I quickly and proudly announce. But I'm alone in the car. I dropped off my daughter, Molly, at school ten minutes ago.

"How embarrassing," I think, "to be playing this stupid game by myself." Suddenly I notice traffic has stopped. I slam on the brakes and barely avoid crashing into the car in front of me. What if I had hit it? I imagine explaining to a police officer that I had been roundly trounced on the way to school by a seven year old who had spotted four slug bugs and two slug buses when all I came up with was a lone Karmen Ghia which Molly says doesn't count. Would there be any compassion for a dad that was just trying to catch up?

It makes me think about how I get hooked into competition. I had the pleasure of coaching Molly's soccer team this fall. We were undefeated until the last game. All the girls were really excited about winning this last match as well. Two of Molly's good friends were on the other team, which added to the tension. In the fourth quarter the score was still zero to zero. It looked like we were going to go home with a tie. "Maybe that's best," I thought to myself. "Then no one will feel bad."

Brushing that thought aside, I stacked the forward line with the team's most experienced players and pressed on toward victory. With one minute to go, we scored. Our whole team jumped in the air. Their whole team looked at the ground. Five minutes later we were all shaking hands, but one of Molly's friends was still crying on the sidelines. On the drive home Molly said, "I almost wish we hadn't scored."

"Why?" I asked.

"Well, I wanted to win, but I didn't want to make my friends feel sad." I reflect on the fact that this comment is coming from a girl who has already declared her intention to become a World Cup Women's Soccer champion. One of these two sentiments is going to have to give way sooner or later. I secretly hope she keeps her sensitivity and passes up the World Cup. I think the odds are in my favor. In every tournament there is one winner. And everyone else is a loser. I remember a time earlier in the season, when I watched a father yank his daughter by the arm, drag her behind the stands and scold her to tears for not hustling hard enough. There must be another way to get together and all have a good time. Perhaps we would be better off with non-competitive dancing, rather than sports.

But there is an excitement that draws me into a contest to determine who is "the best". And judging form my own experience as a soccer player, I seem to be willing to suffer a multitude of losses in pursuit of a win. On the way to pick Molly up in the afternoon, I find myself memorizing the locations of all parked Volkswagens between our house and school. But it is to no avail. Molly's vigilant eye still beats me.

"Slug Bug Blue, Convertible! That's four points!" she declares with great relish. I will never catch up now. But I find myself sharing her smile of self-satisfaction. She gets to win this round of Slug Bug sightings. But I get to be her dad.

© 2010, Tim Hartnett

Other Father Issues, Books

*    *    *

Your children need your presence more than your presents. - Jesse Jackson

Tim Hartnett, Ph.D. is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Santa Cruz, CA. He specializes in Individual Counseling, Couples Therapy, and Divorce Mediation. He can be reached at 831.464.2922 or through his website:

Contact Us | Disclaimer | Privacy Statement
Menstuff® Directory
Menstuff® is a registered trademark of Gordon Clay
©1996-2019, Gordon Clay