There’s a lot going around on social media – and just about everywhere else – about the awards ceremonies in our children’s lives right now. They’re all over the place – on the baseball field, in the classroom, on the playground.
Last week, the coach ended my oldest son’s high school football spring game with awards. Several of his teammates got gift cards and accolades for being the most coachable, most improved, best defensive player, etc. My kid didn’t get a gift card, or a pat on his back for juggling his high school classes with 4-day workouts. I watched my child as he knelt on the field with his teammates and thought what a horrible place for him to be in.
Michael got in the car after the game and said (about the awards) absolutely nothing.
But he sure did talk about what kind of pizza we were picking up for supper…
During the championship playoff for our middle son’s baseball league, a team who had been short one player all season took the first of the double-elimination match-up. They won (easily), forcing the second game that we eventually won (just as easily). Parents in the stands were questioning why the opposing team wasn’t forced to forfeit, since they were one short. I sat quietly and thought the other kids were outplaying us even without one position covered, and deserved the chance to claim the title, right?
Aidan got in the car after the game and said (about the possibility of a championship win by way of a forfeit) absolutely nothing.
But he sure was excited about the pool party/celebration the coach was hosting the next weekend…
Our 3-year old twins played soccer this year. Actually, they ran in circles, cried, and often refused to even step their cute little cleated feet on the field. As the season ended, our team met at the park and the coach literally chased them to hang medals on their necks. The children just wanted to eat the store bought cupcakes and swing. As the twins got in the car, both babies said (about the medals) absolutely nothing.
But they sure did talk about the cupcakes with green icing…
The remaining son is our over achiever. He likes awards. He likes getting A’s, and if he doesn’t win he is likely to argue with you about it. When he tried out for the high school baseball team this past spring he didn’t make it. I remember the day they cut him. It was like a movie: he walked to the car in a cool mist, head down, and told me the news. Then he said (about not making the team) something.
He told me not everyone makes the team. Not everyone wins the award. And he was ok with it … he was just going to practice more and get better.
And he’s right.
Somewhere over the past few decades we – as parents – have lost the ability to let our children lose. We want everyone to get the award, everyone to make the team, and we want (no, we demand) each child be treated equally so no one’s feelings are hurt. And we especially don’t want our child to have to sit still while someone else is being told how they have succeeded.
But our children aren’t equal. Some are good in math, others can write really well. Some are incredible on the ball field while others can play a musical instrument. Some are loving and coach-able, and others only care about licking the green icing off the cupcakes. Regardless, we need to encourage them do their best, and if they don’t win, encourage them to keep trying … and trying … and trying.
They don’t all need trophies, medals and certificates … because in life you don’t always get awards. In fact, awards aren’t even given for the some of the toughest jobs out there.
They just need encouragement.
And while it would be wonderful if that encouragement always came in ridiculously large amounts from teachers, coaches and other adults, the truth is that encouragement really needs to come from us.
So, please, let the “awards for all” notion go. Don’t take it upon yourself to change the mindset of a school or sporting league (or society). There are other parents, like myself, who are perfectly happy watching our children lose, and are even willing to share your joy as your child wins.
As far as I’m concerned, my boys deserve lots of awards. Trophies are cheap, so I could easily arrange our own awards ceremony this weekend. But I won’t do that, I think I’ll just go find some cupcakes and pizza instead.