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Capture The Flag

We have had a tradition at Scott-Towers since ... well ... forever, but I saw something new and prescient in it this morning; a teachable moment in fact.

Our tradition is simply defined as Cuddles In The Big Bed, and it means exactly what you think it means. Since the children were born, we have started our days all piling into the big bed for cuddles. My daughter is almost 14, and my son is almost 9, but whosoever grows out of wanting to start their day with a family expression of love, is dead inside.

Over recent years a game between my kids has begun to emerge, where they try to steal the other's Mums-Hug, i.e.: if one is having a cuddle with me, the other will deploy all sorts of comedic and Wile E. Coyote-esque tricks, traps and distractions to either determinedly usurp the other's position in my arms, or to lure them away somehow, so the embrace becomes newly available. It is often hilarious, as my kids stoop to frankly ingenious levels of guile to steal a Mums-Hug.

It is worth noting that I am more than big enough to cuddle both of them at the same time, so no one ever has to go without a hug, but this appears to be an unacceptable proposition to Thing 1 and Thing 2, so now we let the sibling rivalry play itself out. One other point to mention; there are house rules: no one gets hurt, no one must ever turn spiteful, the minute it gets remotely serious, Mums-with-the-hugs gets up and goes to make a cup of tea. One last rule: like a referee in football, I don't help either of them; Mums-with-the-hugs is serious-like-the-Swiss impartial. If younger and smaller Thing 2 bites off more than he can chew (so to speak), that's his lesson to learn for next time. If Thing 1 underestimates the strength and ingenuity of Thing 2, ditto - keep me out of it, I'm just here for the cuddles!


So this brings me to this morning's little adventure. Not entirely dissimilar to a game of Capture The Flag, my kids were competing over how many Mums-Hugs they could score. There are worse ways to spend a Sunday morning, I can tell you. My teachable moment alarm went off however, with something my son/Thing 2 did - he basically initiated this morning's game.

Whilst Thing 2 was otherwise engaged, Thing 1 and I were having a lovely cuddle and chat in the big bed. Thing 2, practicing his improving Ninja skills, entered the room without us noticing; impressive. Adeptly, commando crawling under the duvet, he climbed up the bed between Thing 1 and I, landing on his side, facing me and replacing Thing 1 in my arms for a hug. Oh, the battle was joined with bells on. With her superior height and strength advantage, Thing 1 promptly strode to the bottom of the bed and dragged Thing 2 by the ankles, dumping him unceremoniously on the floor, before resuming her Mums-Hug to much triumphant giggling.

A series of wedgies, tickling, manhandling and flubbers then ensued, with the Mums-Hugs tally closely tied - we did not have a clear winner at this point. What became interesting though was this: Thing 2 had initially seen an opportunity - a tiny space (between Thing 1 and I) where he could place himself to win the Mums-Hug away from Thing 1. Now that he was in possession of the coveted Mums-Hug, and rather than enjoying the fruits of his labours (the cuddle), he was feeling insecure and threatened by Thing 1's inevitable retaliation. He resorted to leaving the hug to get up on his knees, looking for Thing 1 and whatever she may be doing next. For her part, Thing 1 had predicted this and was waiting patiently, undetected at the bottom of bed, ready to pounce into position. As soon as Thing 2 left me, Thing 1 duly stole the Mums-Hug. This morning's skirmish ended in a tie, which in and of itself was interesting.

Whilst there is almost five years between Thing 1 and Thing 2's ages, despite a current height and strength advantage, Thing 1 was not able to shock and awe Thing 2 into submission. What Thing 2 currently lacks in stature and physicality, he makes up for in vision, guile and willingness to take action. For her part, I was heartened by Thing 1's flat refusal to accept Thing 2's opportunism, and I continue to greatly admire her patience, stealth and considerable strategic intellect.


I was able to visualise this small and inconsequential playful venture for what it was, but I was also able to project it onto a larger canvas; onto their adult lives. Like little baby lion cubs chasing, wrestling and pawing each other, my two not-so-little cubs were practicing for the big wide world too. Whilst there was a degree of physicality in stealing their Mums-Hugs, the key attributes my cubs were honing this morning were more characteristic in nature: guile, vision, finding/acknowledging opportunity, taking action, refusal to quit/be dictated to, self-defense, patience, strategic thinking, stealth, intellect, moderation, focus, determination and good humour. They're learning that whilst others may have differing, or even competing agendas to their own, the world continues to revolve, and an overwhelming use of force must only ever be the last resort. Friendly rivalry is healthy, competition urges us to raise our game and we can only win by being our best possible selves, at all times.

My point in all of this (yes, I do have one) is: how can you hone your opportunity-spotting vision? Is there a tiny, barely perceptible gap you could carve into a niche for yourself? Neither Thing 1 nor I would have said a space existed between us during our cuddle in the big bed this morning, but 8 year-old Thing 2 found it! What are you missing? Are you looking closely enough - are you taking the time to explore thoroughly?


Whatever your goals and plans, you must always allow time for them to unfold. Nothing in this world happens in an instant - certainly nothing built to last. Look at any great, truly remarkable human accomplishments (i.e.: Sistine chapel, space travel the evolution of our species), and research the length of time it took to complete. Patience is essential, but what is more important than patience is what you do whilst waiting. Get busy, have something to show for the time; plan, prepare, get into position (per Thing 1, waiting to strike) and be ready for when the starter's pistol goes off, and your race is truly underway.

One last super-important point. Remember how Thing 2 had won his Mums-Hug, but rather than enjoying it, ultimately lost it because he was looking at Thing 1 might have been doing? Whatever you're doing, be all there and give 100% of your attention - eyes on your prize, don't worry about what others are doing.

My son trains with a local athletics team and has been taught to never look over his shoulder whilst racing because a) he must run his own race and set his own PB's and b) it slows him down. Whilst looking left and right he's not looking forward. There shouldn't be space in his head to think about what other people are doing, his sole focus should be on what he's doing, and crossing the finish line ASAP. He lost a Mums-Hug this morning because this very lesson has clearly not been full and learned. Don't let others into your head, run your own race and capture your flag!


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