My four year old is a game loving machine. Board games, card games, you name it. Because of her interest, along with those sappy commercials encouraging us, I've considered having a "family game night" once a week or so as something the whole family could do together. My only reservation? My sweet little red-headed baby is the sorest loser I have ever seen (second only to her father, that is!).
I have to admit that Chuck and I are partly to blame, because in the past, we have chosen to let her win. Save your e-mails. We've all done it as parents. There is nothing sweeter than watching the face of your precious angel light up when she's won a game. Such confidence! Such accomplishment! It's a priceless picture. Fast forward with me to this past January. We are at a birthday party for my friend's little boy. They start to play a "Thomas the Train" version of pin the tail on the donkey (put the caboose at the end of the train... cute, right?). Yeah, cute until my sweetie pie is crushed because her caboose is not the closest. Then came the tears. She wasn't throwing a malicious fit, mind you... she was just a heartbroken and disappointed child who wanted to be the very best.
Fast forward again to a couple weeks ago. Jamie Ruth and I are playing some games (more like having a "game marathon"... first the "memory match" game, then "slap jack," then "go fish," then EVERY SINGLE BOARD GAME WE OWN. No, I'm SO not kidding.). Figuring she was mature enough to "play fairly" as I call it, I was in no way trying to sway the outcome in her favor. Believe it or not, she actually won all the games with the exception of the last one: Candy Land. You would have thought that someone had just told her that Santa died with all that blubbering going on! Yes, I gave her the talk about "it doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's just fun playing the game." Yes, I tried to explain that of all the games we played, she had won many and only lost one. Yes, I tried to teach her empathy and told her that it's good to be happy for someone when they win and to offer them a hearty "congratulations." All to no avail.
I began to think that this is exactly what is wrong with society today. Parents are so concerned with keeping their child's delicate ego intact that we are raising self-absorbed ego-maniacs who cannot deal with the least little bit of rejection. What good is it when no one has to prove themselves these days to make a sports team or when all the children is a contest receive a prize or trophy? It's as if we are telling our kids that there isn't a standard to strive for so... who cares! And boy could I go in a hundred different directions on that note. (Disclaimer: I'm not referring to small children here. All little kids need to be included and learn the ropes of sports and such. I think y'all know what I'm talking about.)
I remember the first time I tried out for cheerleading. I was in the 6th grade, and until then, I had only been on "pee-wee" teams where all who sign up participate. Was I devastated when I wasn't chosen? Yes, I was. But because of that disappointment, I worked hard and perfected my form and went on to make the cheerleading team in Jr. High, high school, and even college. And it may sound cliche', but experiencing defeat makes the victory, when it does come, even sweeter. Let's face it. Life can be tough. If we shield our children to a fault, we are only going to make it more difficult for them later. Will they ALWAYS get the job, promotion, or guy or girl they want? No. I guess it's never too early to learn the valuable lesson that the winner may not always be us, but in defeat we can learn and grow and eventually succeed if we play our cards right. Pun definitely intended!