You Win Some, You Win Some
I’ve decided that fun doesn’t exactly bring out the best in kids … or adults.
Gone are the days when you went to a birthday party, played a game, and got a prize *IF* you actually won the game. In the 21st century, children have been taught to expect a reward simply for taking up space. Far be it from me to minimize the effort that’s required to breathe in and out, but does your mere existence really warrant an award of some sort? I don’t think so.
I allowed my little daughter to have a Halloween party at our house recently. Part of my preparation for this party was to come up with some games to keep the little goblins entertained. I made a trip to the store to stock up on some small prizes to give to the WINNERS of said games. As I was adding up in my head the number of prizes I would need, there was a little voice nagging at me. “You had better get enough prizes for all the guests. They’re going to expect that, you know.”
The mean mom in me had other ideas.
The mean mom in me thinks that we’ve turned our kids into a bunch of gooey little marshmallows, if you must know the truth. When I say “we,” I guess I’m not exactly sure to whom it is I’m referring. Perhaps it’s the fault of the parents. We understandably want our kids to be happy and comfortable and to never have to deal with disappointment or loss, in whatever form it may come. So we shelter them from those things. The problem with that, unfortunately, is that those things are the stuff of which reality is made.
Perhaps it comes down to influences outside the home. Take school, for example. When my daughter competed in the school spelling bee a while back (and won, thank you very much), I fully expected the principal to bring out a box of trophies—one for every single kid who had competed. She was falling all over herself trying to console the ones who were in tears for not having come out the winner. If that had been ME as a kid (and it was, more times than I care to admit), my mom would have marched me over to the corner, told me I did a good job, then whacked me across the top of the head and told me to suck it up and get over it. Now there’s some reality.
Sidebar: Oh all right, I took a little dramatic license there. My mom wasn’t that mean. She might have just flicked my nose or something. But my point is, why aren’t more parents and other adults teaching children how to lose? Please note that I’m not suggesting that anyone run out and whack their poor-sport kids across the heads or flick their noses. But please, for the love, let’s stop babying them and shielding them from the realities of life. It’s those hard, disappointing moments, the ones that happen nearly every single day, that help us to enjoy the sweetness of victory that much more. That is what our kids need to know and experience.
Let’s get raw for a moment. Isn’t the world mainly made up of a bunch of losers? No matter what the contest, whether it’s a spelling bee or bobbing for apples or running for president, there is always just the one winner. Everyone else falls just a little short in the end. And that’s okay. I for one am quite glad that, when it comes time to pick a president, we don’t have a system (at least not currently) in place which allows everyone who “played” to get the prize just so nobody feels bad. It’s a ridiculous notion. Yet we are teaching our kids that this is how the world works.
“You don’t need to work hard. There’s no need to excel. You’ll eventually end up with the same prize as that other kid who worked and studied and sweated and prepared his guts out and EARNED that blue ribbon.”
Maybe we need a little less of that and a little more, “Sometimes you won’t get invited to the neighbor kid’s birthday bash. Sometimes you’ll come in dead last and barely get a pat on the back for your efforts. Sometimes you’ll work and slave and do your best and still someone else will do a little bit better. Sometimes you’ll go to a party and play games and come home with nothing but cavities and a sugar buzz from all the cake and ice cream you ate. But that’s okay, because I love you and you did your best. Now, did you bring any candy home for mommy?”
So, to the parents of the darling kids who came to my Halloween party, I apologize for the fact that everyone didn’t end up with a prize. In my defense, though, it wasn’t entirely my fault. The mean mom made me do it.