In July of 2010, I posted a blog titled “Are We Raising Softies” (read it here) in which I brought up how it bothered me that we seem to have done away with the idea that WINNING is actually important. I was referring to the fact that every competition out there for our kids today comes with a prize. That a “participant” ribbon is carried home with the same weighty pride of the old school “1st Place” trophy. I considered the idea that it might be weakening our kids. Taking away that drive to be the best. The alpha dog. A real go-getter with the drive and determination that will one day be required of them in “the real world.”
I think I’ve changed my mind.
Yesterday, Big Brother was in a swim meet. His first.
Long before the meet, Husband and I were well aware that Big Brother didn’t have much aggression in him. He plays baseball and soccer. Basketball and flag football. He also plays golf and takes sailing lessons. Interestingly, he approaches all these sports with the same manner. He’s social. He’s willing to learn He’s a deep thinker. But, aggressive? Not so much.
And thinking, while an excellent quality when reading the wind in sailing or the greens in golf, isn’t necessarily the first attribute required for football.
He’d sooner keep his hands planted firmly in his pockets and happily root from the sidelines than get in there and rip a flag off a runner’s belt. He wants to win, don’t get me wrong. He hates losing. But, he doesn’t want to get in there and really FIGHT for it. In Big Brother’s mind, if there’s another guy on the team who’s more QUALIFIED to rip off that flag, well then why in the world would Big Brother go in instead?
See what I mean? Logical, yes. Aggressive? Not so much.
But, he’s always been a very capable swimmer. A kid who grew up around boats and water, he’s been in the ocean and in pools his whole life. He’ll fearlessly race into the ocean at the first signs of spring (despite bitter temperatures) to become a founding member of what his uncle and Dad refer to as the “Polar Bear Club.” He loves it.
So, when the opportunity arose to enter him in a Swim Meet, I figured that chances were he’d be just fine.
A little overwhelmed by large crowds and booming microphones in the beginning, he shied from the get go and wouldn’t get in the water for practice. But, after some coaxing from his best friend and the swimming coach, in he went. With his usual careful and precise swimming stroke, he warmed up beautifully. Calm. Cool. Precise.
Calm. Precise. Yup, that’s Big Brother.
And, they’re off!
Water splashing everywhere. Kicks and reaches, pulls and gasps for breath throughout the pool. Anxious Moms scan the lanes.
And there’s Big Brother. Looking excellent.
Graceful. Precise. Calm. Smooth.
Umm, and also? Slow.
And dead last.
After each race, there were lots of people around the pool heaping praise on him for a job well done.
Big Brother beamed. Not at all phased by where he placed in the race. Completely oblivious. He swam well. He was proud of himself.
And I was proud of him, too.
And, I’ll tell you this, folks.
Afterwards? I was damn grateful for that Participant ribbon.