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Recently, I was finishing a half-marathon. Several runners had already come in. Some had won in their categories, some had made PRs. They posed, took pictures and collected their medals. Finally my son spotted me. He rushed to welcome me and then somewhat sadly asked "Did you come last?"

Lately, my 5-year-old has been a bit obsessed with 'coming first'. He has to be the first one to brush his teeth, finish breakfast and press down on the sprinkler heads in the lawn. Given that he is competing against his 2-year-old brother, more often than not, he does end up coming first.

I watch this frenzy sometimes with bemusement and sometimes with exasperation. I want my son to, perhaps a bit naively, step back and enjoy things without feeling the need to win every single time. But there are also times that I am just a hassled parent starting off a competition between the two siblings just to get things done.

I realize competition is inevitable these days. It keeps you on the edge and pushes you to learn new skills. Children today have to give piano recitals, win the robotics championship, play state level table tennis while also excelling academically. But competing is one thing, and truly enjoying something is another. Be it swimming, robotics or a marathon, coming first might be a great way of getting there, but the important thing is to do it to the best of one's ability and enjoy it.

So that day when my son asked me if I came last in the marathon, I told him, "Maybe. And it so much fun!"


With a Perspective, I'm Sandhya Acharya.

Sandhya Acharya worked in corporate finance before becoming a writer and mother in the Bay Area.