Competition brings out the best and the worst in some people. In kids, it's a little glimpse into how they're going to relate to others when they grow up. Case in point--The All City Track Meet. Here are the kids at the beginning of the cacophonous, frenetic, team-spirited event.
All smiles--Whoop-de-doo! Happy as can be. Ready to take on their events, run fast, pass batons, have fun. Here they are at the end of the event.
After all the ribbons had been presented. After they LOST their events. What? you say, but they've got ribbons. What gives? Yes, they were in relay races against 2 other teams. All the relay team members got ribbons. T2 didn't even run. She was the alternate.
But the individual events is where I really got to see my twins' sensibilities, and in the individual events is where the teachable moment lies.
When T1 didn't win, he said, "Oh well, at least I got a medal for the relay. It was fun."
"Good for you!" I said. That's right, you did your best and you had fun. Let's go home and have a cool drink and celebrate your maturity.
T2 cried. Sobbed. Said she was robbed. The other girls cheated. Little Miss Competitive. She was more than a little disappointed. And seriously unwilling to take responsibility for the outcome. The blaming is where I thought to act. How can I ease that feeling of pain that comes when you have an expectation that doesn't pan out? I know that feeling. I'm holding back tears too watching her process this sad emotion that inevitably comes as children learn about the ya-win-some-ya-lose-some lessons of the world.
"Did you do your best?" I asked.
"Yes," she sighs, "but my back still hurts from the bruise." (Long story of a mishap with some stone steps.)
"You know what?" I ask, "you're right. That must be still smarting you. And not placing makes it feel worse. For next year, we can practice. I've got a stop watch....."
Her eyes light up. "Right!" she says. I can see the brain going. "Let's run everyday. You can time me and see if I can do it faster."
A-ha. Will she grow and begin to see that she is the only one who can mold the outcome of her life? Did I do the right thing? (If you ascribe to Carol Dweck's Mindset, then yes, I guess). For how long will hugs ease the sting of losing?
Forever, I hope.