This is the time of year that a lot of kids compete. Sports, Band, Choir, Public Speaking, whatever area of the sky they’ve decided to fly.  I was one of those competitors when I was in school, and have been the Mom of two who chose to compete.

I think it’s easier to be the one competing than the one that watches your child go off to be judged on purpose on the material he has worked.  On some level it made me totally understand the “everybody gets a trophy mentality”, but that’s my heart talking, not my head.

I think it’s better if they don’t get First Place all the time, if they don’t make it into the Region Choir, or Band, lose the game, or if they don’t move ahead to the next level a couple of times. Don’t get me wrong, I love the celebration of achievement, the look on my children’s faces when they win.  The first time my daughter came home and hadn’t placed, whoa, that was different all together. She was crushed, and I was shocked. She had worked so hard; how could this happen?  I was angry right there with her, it took a while to realize that not winning now, was the best thing for both of the kids.

Children that compete in school do it right, they seek out judgement on purpose in a controlled environment where the possible outcomes are known.

I remember, my freshman year in college, one super achiever in my group. She was there on a full scholarship, had trophies galore for everything and anything she’d ever done. She worked really hard, and was likable, which was a little surprising to me, most people I had been around up to that point who won often, were cocky, but not Mikey, she was raised right, knew how to keep her perspective.  Then we had our first round of auditions. Mikey didn’t make it through to the second rounds.  Suddenly that bubbly girl, full of confidence was just devastated. She was far from the comfort of her parents, and feeling her first failure. She took it much harder than the rest of us.  First, her reaction was met with bewilderment from her new friend group. It was just an audition, there would be others. Then I realized, it was just an audition to us, but she was probably getting ready to start her rehearsal schedule, it never entered her mind that her name wouldn’t be on that list.  We nursed Mikey through her crushing blow, thinking she was certain to be a superior Drama Major, because she sure was dramatic.

After getting over the shock of my daughter not making the cut that first time, I was reminded of Mikey, and realized even though it’s hard, it was a good thing. She had the opportunity to feel the sting of losing at home, in a safe place, land softly, surrounded by people that knew her worth, and able to help shape her perspective, and it did.  She went on to compete again, win often, lose sometimes, and do both with a learned grace around her peers, and to herself. My son followed and repeated the same cycle, learning first hand the meaning of “you can’t win them all”, and the self-preservation that comes with getting a mental tougher skin, and enjoying many wins.

photo by Chrissie Roberts

So here’s to all the kids that compete, it’s a lot more than a game you’re playing, or a play, a part, or a trophy. What you are doing now helps prepare you for a better future. That winning feeling is hard to beat. Remember, there is a certain win that comes with just growing through the process, and tougher skin can be more comforting in the future than a trophy.