I’m old enough to remember losing

I’m old enough to remember losing.  I’m old enough that no one was really worried about my self esteem when I was growing up.

When I was little, I didn’t get participation trophies for showing up.

I distinctly remember losing.

I remember the bitter taste of defeat in softball (out team came in last place), the humiliation of sitting down during a spelling bee, and being told to try again during a botched piano recital.

i've never talked to a psychologist about losingI’ve never talked to a psychologist about it.

Instead, I learned from the experiences.  I learned that it would be foolish to hope for a sports scholarship to collage.  I learned that I couldn’t fake my way through a spelling bee.  I learned that the world did not end just because I made a mistake playing chopsticks, and that my mom was right when she suggested I should practice more.

i remember losing and i'm okMore importantly, I learned what failure feels like.  I learned how to be graceful in defeat.  I learned to bounce back and try again.  I learned to accept that I’m not talented in everything I try.

The flip side is that I’m old enough to remember winning.

I remember getting a gold medal at a music competition when my friend (who came in fourth) got nothing but a handshake.  I remember getting a part in a musical when other kids didn’t even make the chorus.  I remember the special feeling of winning when there were losers.

i learned its ok to loseWhen I won, I learned to be gracious in victory.  I learned that hard work pays off.  I learned that following a passion could be rewarding.  I came to understand that my natural gifts gave me an edge, just as my natural weaknesses presented handicaps.

I don’t recall adults obsessing about my self-esteem.  I don’t recall being sheltered from the “L word” (loser).  I don’t recollect being handed a certificate or trophy just because I showed up to most of the practices.  In second grade, when the softball team walked off the field in defeat, the coach didn’t tell us “you lost.”  She didn’t have to.  The score was announced every half inning.

losing a game does not make me a loser in lifeI remember playing games with my family where there were clear winners and losers.  When my older brother won, he did a victory dance.  When I won, so did I.

I wish my kids were given an opportunity to experience defeat.

I winced at the “no scorekeeping” rule.  I groan at the trophy they are given for a losing season.  Last year, my kids turned their trophies into doorstops for their bathroom – without parental prompting.

I feel like a hypocrite for the “you played your best” conversations when they don’t also include the “but your team lost because your team isn’t very good” part of the discussion.

The conversation in our family has BOTH parts, we even talk about the times when our sons didn’t play their best because they were busy making dragon noises and attacking the dandelion flowers in the outfield.

It’s not that I don’t care about my children’s’ self-esteem.  The truth is quite the opposite.  I care deeply.  I just happen to believe that having a healthy self esteem requires that they experience winning AND losing.

When everyone is a winner, winning has no meaning.

i remember losing.  when everyone is a winner, winning has no meaning.

Care to share?  How does your family handle the trophies?  Do you see the benefit of having winners and losers?


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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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  1. I was really, REALLY glad when the rec league where the boys played (SIGHING over having to use past tense there) switched over and started only giving out medals for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams (gold, silver, & bronze). We have so many medals collecting dust around here but I can’t quite pitch them although I should. However, some of them are genuine 1st place medals and trophies. I think the trophies are fun in the little bitty leagues (think 5 & under) but once the kids can add, then they KNOW whether the trophy means anything and whether they won or lost no matter if score is kept or not. I’m completely with you on the winners/losers thing. We all have different talents in life and why should we teach our kids not to appreciate that fact and be gracious and appreciative about their own talents? I do not get it.
    Jean recently posted..Saturday Success Stories, September 7My Profile

    • Last spring, I was delighted to see our baseball league switch from trophies to balls. At the end of game party, EVERY kid got a brand new baseball and a sharpie. They had a signing party and signed each others’ balls. The kids loved it.

      We didn’t start on sports until 1st grade, so I can’t speak to what’s appropriate for little ones beyond lots of hugs and healthy snacks. 🙂

  2. I wrote a very similar post to this one a long time ago now. I wish our kids learned the value of hard work, dedication, the true meaning of competition, and so much more. Great post!
    Crystal Green recently posted..Saturday Share Blog HopMy Profile

    • My husband and I struggling with just that – how do we teach them the value of hard work, dedication, and the true meaning of competition?

      • Honestly in today’s society that is a tough one. Many people will cut down your parenting if you don’t shower all of the kids with the same amount of praise.
        Shoot, I deal with in-laws giving presents to all of my kids on each of their birthdays. (Now that’s another topic similar to this one–wrote about it too.)

        It’s pure craziness in my book. I do many things to try and get my kids to understand that there is always competition. What happens when they go into the work force and find out that not everyone is a boss?
        Crystal Green recently posted..We Laugh,We Cry,We Cook Review and GiveawayMy Profile

  3. It drives me crazy – this whole “everybody is a winner” attitude that the politically correct crowd is pushing on kids. Of course there are winners and losers in life – and kids should be taught this lesson early on. But yeah, wouldn’t it be nice if every kid was “awarded” a scholarship regardless of their academic or athletic performances?

  4. You can never enjoy the true meaning of being a victor if you’ve never experience losing. Most of the time, you’ll experience greater amount of defeat than victory. You can never take it all 🙂

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