Punt, Pass, and Kvetch
My son competed in his first ever NFL sponsored Punt, Pass, and Kick competition yesterday, and came in third out of three kids. It was a very sad day for a little boy who loves sports more than life itself.
It was also his first time losing anything ever. You see, he only plays on local recreation department sports teams that don't keep score so as not to hurt anyone's feelings. He keeps track of his own stats, but no one else is looking. This has taught him about who appears to win and who appears to be good at sports, but not much about who actually wins and how to deal with actually losing.
I said a lot of trite things yesterday, like:
You are right, it wasn't fair. A lot of things in life aren't fair. You have to learn to cope with unfair situations and not let them get the best of you.
and I said,
It took a lot of courage to get up in front of a bunch of strangers. It can sometimes to be harder to perform well when a lot of people are watching.
But i did not say, "You tried your best, that's all that matters."
Because that is crap, and I try not to feed my kids crap if I am paying attention. Life doesn't reward trying and failing, actually. I am proud of him for trying. I am sad that he failed, because it made him so very sad. But I was also a little glad he lost. Trying your best and failing does matter. It shapes who you are as a person.
You see, my kid won't do things he is bad at. He wouldn't even try to ride a bike until third grade. He shies away from anything that might not come easy. He flat out refuses to try difficult things and becomes an angry, frustrated ball of tears if you try to show him something, like an easier way to tie his shoes. He is really a pain in the toches about it, and he is just like I was as a child. As a kid, I learned quickly to never try my hardest, because then I could lean back into the excuse that if I had really tried I wouldn't have lost. I could protect my fragile ego from that horrible feeling of being bad at something and floundering around in front of everyone. You can't lose if you don't try.
If i had learned to try and fail and realize that I wouldn't die from it, learned instead to sit with the pain then move on, i probably would have been a lot more successful in life. The spoils go to those who try, fail, and try something else, or try the same thing differently. Life rewards risk-takers that have learned how to cope with failure. Life does not reward people who say, "I could have done it if I wanted to," and I know this the hard way. It's a lesson better learned in third grade then when you are thirty.
And Kid, I am proud of you. I will love you no more if you win and no less if you lose. Mama's always on your side, and I hope to heck you don't let this stop you from trying next time.