Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better
One of the great things about being married to a high school teacher is the dirt-cheap family entertainment. There’s always something going on at her school, and it almost always costs nothing, or next to nothing, to attend.
We can take our two boys, ages 6 and 4, to the high school basketball game on a Friday night, toss down a couple of bucks and the rugrats don’t know if the player knocking down three-pointers is the acne-faced kid from Homeroom 2F or LeBron James. And they don’t care either. They just enjoy being a part of the excitement.
The same goes for theater productions. A couple of bucks gets us four primo seats to a spirited, well-rehearsed, well-produced version of a classic musical. Sure, sometimes the house lights inexplicably turn on for a few seconds during the middle of a key scene, or a large hunk of the set falls to the stage with a thunderous clap, but the overall entertainment value is not bad, not bad at all.
Recently, we took the boys to see a production of Irving Berlin’s “Annie Get Your Gun,” which just so happens to be one of my all-time favorites. My wife and I had the pleasure of seeing Bernadette Peters belt out the role of Annie Oakley on the Great White Way one rainy spring evening a few years back (well, more than a few years now, I guess), and I’ve been singing those beautiful moonshine lullabies in my head ever since.
While the lyrics and rhythms from that Broadway show made a lasting impression on me, I had no idea that one song in particular would have a similar effect on my young sons.
Let’s take it straight to Act II. The boys already had made it to intermission without incident. No one got stuck between the cushions of the folding auditorium seats. No one blurted out, “Daddy, I have to poop!” during a quiet moment between songs. No one cried when the first “gun” was fired on stage. During intermission, we had rewarded their good behavior with a fundraiser-size box of Skittles for each kid. Happily, they ate the candies in their seats (don’t tell the student-ushers) as the second act began. All was well.
Then, it happened. Call it enlightenment. Call it an epiphany. Call it the simple recognition of an age-old fact. The show’s two main characters launched into a rendition of the song “Anything You Can Do,” and both boys were mesmerized by what clearly ought to be the official anthem of sibling rivalry. “Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you. Anything you can be, I can be greater. Sooner or later, I’m greater than you.”
I could see it in their delighted little grins – both my boys got this song. They knew its meaning. Even at such young ages, they live it every day.
After the show was over and the boys jumped into the back seat of the car for the ride home, it started. First one, then the other, sang little bits of the song – and, of course, began bickering over who had the words right, who sang it better, who was singing the boy’s part and who was singing the girl’s part, and who was and was not keeping his hands to himself. Luckily, the pure joy of singing this wonderful song – by now, my wife and I had jumped in on the second verse – was enough to diffuse the situation.
In a way, though, it was beautiful to listen to them go at it for a moment. There’s just no way around sibling rivalry. I have three brothers, and although I wouldn’t classify us as ultra-competitive, there’s always been enough one-upsmanship and friendly competition to go around. I wouldn’t expect any less from my own two sons. It’s the way of the world and, ultimately – hopefully – some good comes out of it. At its best, sibling rivalry pushes us to excel and achieve and reach our goals with the incentive of friendly competition. Of course, it’s essential that it be kept at that level.
So, when sibling rivalry flares up between your kids at home, know that it’s natural. And to calm things down when things get a little too heated between siblings, go ahead and tap “Anything You Can Do” on your playlist and encourage everyone join in with this delightfully silly tune:
“Anything you can say
I can say softer.
I can say anything
Softer than you.
No, you can’t. (Softly)
Yes, I can. (Softer) No, you can’t. (Softer)
Yes, I can. (Softer) No, you can’t. (Softer)
Yes, I can. (Softer)
YES, I CAN!” (Full volume)
Brian Kantz can’t carry a tune to save his life. At least he still sounds better than his three brothers. Visit Brian online at www.briankantz.com or drop him a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.