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Parenting

Competition

I have long been irritated at the competitive attitude in the great US of A. I remember when the fabulous Sarah rode in the Hampton Classic in the Lead Line with three hundred other darlings. Everyone who entered left the ring with a light blue ribbon. One girl left the ring with the true first place ribbon. It was hard to explain to my five-year old that she didn’t win when she was standing there with a blue ribbon in her hand saying she did. She went on to win a zillion blue ribbons in her equestrian career. She didn’t need a false start to get there.

If we stopped pretending that winning is everything, and the only thing for which to strive, perhaps we wouldn’t need to hand out false first prizes all the time.

It’s like party bags. I grew up before party bags were at all birthday parties. You went to the birthday party, you were entertained, got great food and cake, and brought a gift for the honoree because it was his or her birthday, not yours. Making sure that everyone at the party leaves with a gift is ridiculous and doesn’t teach that some things are just plain not about you. And sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. And sometimes it’s your birthday and other times it is not.

The problem is the expectation that everything should be a win.

Winning means more because it doesn’t happen all the time. That’s the point. And winning something big like an Academy Award or a gold medal at the Olympics is the height of achievement in one’s life. I do not know this personally, having never won something that big, but I have won a number of times in my life, and I know that exuberant feeling that says, “Well done. You did it.” And I don’t want it to come too easily.

Then again, there was my father’s approach, which I do not advocate. I came in second in the first tennis tournament I entered in Virginia. I called him and told him, excited by my achievement.

He said, “Well, you know the difference between first place and second place?”

“No,” I said, stupidly. I should have just hung up the phone.

“Winning and losing.”

See, that’s the mistake. Not winning is not losing. Losing is not trying at all. Losing is not doing your best. Losing is not a bad thing sometimes. If you won all the time, where would the high come from? It took me a long time to get it, but this weekend I experienced the parental challenge of a child who believes she has won when she hasn’t, and I just wanted to point it out to you all again. We all know it. How about we start living it?

That said, I have entered a blog contest and really want to win. Could you… just kidding.

0 replies on “Competition”

From my friend EJ… Had to post it.

Oh my. Nice letter.
I could go on and on on this topic. I was at my teammate Jan’s house last night to pick up some brownies that she baked for Alana’s bake sale tomorrow which is for her Bat Mitzvah effort so she is learning it isn’t about her but the kids at the Academy of Hope School in Detroit for whom she dedicated this effort, along with the Tsunami victims in Japan and her schools slush fund. Anyway, Jan’s son Jack about 10 now won a gecko and I was happy to see it in his room. There on top of his dresser he had easily 10 trophies. Now mind you, you know what kind of athlete I am, I don’t have close to that many in my live and that includes little league, baseball into college, all kinds of other sports including intramural sports and so on. I think it is pointless.

My first year in little league my team came in fifth place out of six. We weren’t that bad but on this team not everyone played. There was no rule about that. We had try outs .Not everyone made it. It cost me $0.50 to buy the contract. I payed 50 cents! Kids got cut. Most went to another team but that was the way it was. We played to win but mostly with pro rules. Once out of the game you were out. No free substitution.

The next year we were nearly undefeated. We were sponsored by the Kiwanas Club. They gave us a Tee shirt, yellow and dark blue lettering in that felt like lettering of days past. I loved that shirt. We wore jeans and most of us just had tennis shoes. We mostly wore Detroit Tiger caps that we bought were ever that was. Our second year was amazing but we lost one game. I remember being in the back seat of Skippy Siegels car between Jeff and Les. They both eventually moved from that neighborhood too in the Ferndale school district and went to Groves. Les is an opthamologist and lives in the Briggs Mansion (they owned the Tigers) near Cranbrook. His wife went to Lahser. Anyway, Skippy (the only adult in my youth I called by first name) chewed us out. “I can’t believe how you guys thought you couldn’t lose. That every game was going to be a win for just showing up.” Then he said these piercing words, “EVEN YOU E.J.!” Well, I can tell you that stuck. If I wasn’t competitive before that I sure ramped it up after. When our football team was undefeated into our Senior year I remember that attitude and stuck to my guns. I came down on my teammates when I thought they were being cocky. I reminded them we could loose but it sure wasn’t going to because of the wrong attitude.

So, I’ll leave it at that for now. I think your dad should have been shot for that comment. My dad said “what happened in penmanship?” when I got all A’s on a report card save for a B+ penmanship of all things. As far as I’m concerned it was the stupidest thing a parent ever said to a kid.

Love you!
EJ

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