Since we are in the middle of March Madness and our television is permanently tuned to basketball, I have had discussions with my kids about teams losing and how it is just a part of life. As heartbreaking as it is to watch these young men lose a game that means so much to them, their teams, their coaches, and their careers, it is still just a part of life. The press conferences after the games can be so painful to watch when a single young man feels that he is the reason his team lost. I saw tears and heard cracking voices and these boys said, "It was my fault. I missed that shot. I threw away the pass. I fouled that player." Each of them will wake up the day after that painful loss and move on. If they continue to play they will learn from the mistakes they made and improve their game, if they graduate and move on to a career they will use the experience in a similar manner just off the court. They lost, they do not get a "thanks for participating" trophy, real life does not give you this either and for some reason we are teaching our young children that everyone is a "winner". By doing this we are setting them up to not only expect everything to work out perfectly in life, but when the first thing finally does go wrong and nobody is there to pick up the pieces for them they are set up for devastation.
My parents let me fall down, hard, many times. Trust me, there are times that I wish they had held my hand so that things had worked out, but if they had I would not have learned to work hard and try a different tactic. If they had bailed me out of every unfortunate predicament that I managed to get myself into I would most likely be living at home with them now. I would not have had the determination to move on from the bad choice I made that turned into a bad marriage and a divorce. I most likely would have taken the easy way out and moved home with them.
I totally expect for my two lovely children to truly suck at many things and I know that their precious little egos will be hurt, but they will learn to persevere, to work harder and smarter, and hopefully master that skill. Sometimes, regardless of how much time and effort are put into something, you never become as good as you want. Choose something else, encourage your child to do something that is more suitable and move on from there.
I know that I will never sign R.J. or Lily up for a sports league where everybody and every team "wins" or receives an award for participating. Life does not allow for everyone to win all of the time. We need to learn how to lose and learn from those losses, but on the flip side we also need to learn to win with grace. I am not sure how we got to where we are as a society with all of these ridiculous participation trophies and ribbons, but these ribbons and trophies are things that I will not let my children be a part of, because really what will it teach them?