One of my main rules as a parent has been to try not to judge other parents. This parenting thing is not for the faint of heart and I am of the belief that most people are really doing their best and I should not judge another parent even if they are, for example, letting their toddler eat the foam off their double-shot latte while simultaneously complaining about the fact that her kid has trouble sleeping. (Clearly, that mom was very tired.) I'm now the proud owner of a 9 year old and the fact that she's doing fine is rather shocking given the many, many, many mistakes I make on a daily basis. She just ate Cheetos and gummy bears for lunch. Thanks for not judging.
So this brings me to the jillions of online blogs, articles and tweets that are super-judgey about those trophies little kids get for participating in sports. Yikes. Some of the posts I've read seem to imply that the kids won't learn to win and lose gracefully if they receive a trophy no matter what. OK, let's calm down people. Have you ever watched five year olds play soccer? The idea that one team will "win" over the other is laughable. If one of the kids makes contact with the ball with their feet, I assure you it is mostly by accident. The only real "winners" of the game are the parents who figure out how to get that soccer chair back in the bag, grab their kid and jump in the car before the line forms at the Steak and Shake. By the end of the soccer season, the kids have played soccer in mud, They have played soccer in the rain. They have played soccer in snowpants. And finally on the last day of the season, they have played soccer in the scorching heat. (Welcome to the midwest.) And maybe one kid has scored in each game, and that kid usually is the only one that ever scores. And that kid is generally not my kid and there's a decent chance it isn't your kid either.
When the kids get those trophies and are rewarded for working hard, they are genuinely thrilled. It is a simple pleasure. A trophy is shiny and sometimes has your name on it. A trophy looks awesome on your dresser until you move it to make room for a cool Lego you just made. I just don't think most kids are equating trophies with winning or being the best unless we tell them that's what the trophy means. But doing their best? That's actually really valuable. Maybe (gasp) more valuable in the long run than winning.
Last year, Sarah played soccer with a great group of girls. It was a lucky mix. They had a lot of natural ability and they were scrappy. They liked each other and laughed. And (although we are not yet technically keeping score) they never, ever lost. The other teams worked extremely hard when they played our team. I daresay they worked even harder than our team did. Sometimes when you work really hard, you win. Sometime when you work really hard, you lose anyway.
So, when my kid looks at her trophies she doesn't think she won. She doesn't think she lost. She thinks she tried really hard and she was a member of the team. She cheered for her team. She cheered for the other team. She stood there in that much-too-big goalie shirt and let that ball come right at her. She played in the rain. And she put that trophy on her dresser and we looked at it and said she did a great job.