Friday, May 23, 2008

Congratulations! You Got Twelfth!

Show No Fear!
Show No Fear!
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
It drives me absolutely nuts when I attend a children’s sporting event, and every single child present wins. I’m sorry, there is only one word that describes this situation: Bullshit.

Complete and utter bullshit.

Do not tell me that this is about improving the self-esteem of our children. You can not and will not gain self-esteem from some crappy piece of medal on a ribbon which you received for showing up. You will not, can not gain confidence and pride in self for just for having a pulse. The medal makes it worse.

I made the girls give theirs back.

Before you declaim me as the worst soccer mom in the history of the species, the girls were not terribly upset. Despite all societal convictions to the contrary, children are not stupid. They know that a medal received for showing up is a piece of crap not worth the energy used to stamp it. The only item worth keeping that day was the third place ribbon Jaime received for her three-hand reel. The girls were all happy to keep that one on the boat and put it up in a place of honor.

I do not know which idiot pop psychologist got on Oprah and convinced the rest of the nation we had to improve our children’s self-esteem through the distribution of nonsensical and pointless trophies. I would like to take that pinhead by the scruff and shake until his teeth rattle, his eyes glaze over, and he pees his pants.

Self-esteem is built by working your ass off and getting results. It’s earned by arriving to the contest, toeing the line, doing a really bad job, and failing to even place. Then it grows by going back to the drawing board, struggling and practicing and perfecting your craft, and returning to take fifth. Then repeating this over and over until some brilliant sunny day, your world opens up and you attain second or even first. If a child does this even once -- whether in Irish dance, swimming, or competitive lanyard weaving -- that child has learned what it means to succeed.

Do not protect children from failure, people. You are not doing them any favors. Believe it or not, children grow up. I can assure you that when that child gets to work and expects to be patted on the head for just showing up, things are not going to go well. In fact, you do not even get a medal for doing your job. You just get a paycheck. You only get a bonus or prize in the adult world when you work your ass off and go above and beyond the average. This is why we use the word “reward.” A reward is something you get for doing something special.

Call me cruel. Call it tough love. Call it supreme bitch Mom. Call it neglect. My children fail all the time. They fail at math, they fail at Irish dance, they make idiots of themselves on stage and they fall out of trees. They trip, and they make ugly pictures which we call ugly and sometimes they even make food so bad I throw it over the side of the boat. We don’t pretend it’s pretty when it’s not. We do not say it tastes good when it makes us gag. We do not tell them they are doing a good job when we can barely read what they’ve written. As parents of the 21st century, we probably suck.

But you ought to see these girls -- a more self-confident, energetic, charismatic bunch of kids you will have trouble finding anywhere. And I do say so myself.
Cutting the Lines
Cutting the Lines
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.


French Lily said...

Good job!! I wish there were more parents like you, so when the kids eventually go to work, they won't expect everything to be easy!

Al Thomason said...

Not sure what set you off on this today, but one word for you: Yup.

Toast said...

@al.thomason Heh. Actually, I'm a GTD fan girl among my other hobbies. When I get an idea for an article, I add it to my iGTD list. This was one from about 2 months ago but the moment I saw the topic come up in my "ideas for articles list" I remembered the frustrated feeling of rage like I was reliving the moment.

I also find the accompanying AdSense google ads just howlingly funny. It's irresistible.

Jody said...

Yes, agree agree agree. Not to mention where the Sam Hell are we supposed to put all of the "you win for trying" medals and trophies. (hint: it ended up with them all stacked neatly in a box, someplace dark and dusty).

Cap'n Franko said...

My initial flying instructor had a saying: Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.

I've always liked that saying. We're all bad at stuff when we start out. If we really value the thing we're pursuing, we'll keep after it until we do it better than poorly, then we'll do it adequately, and maybe, eventually, we'll do it well. When I started flying I needed lots of help getting the plane down safely. Now I am a licensed pilot and I can land all by myself without breaking anything, which meets the criteria of another old piloting saying:

Any landing you walk away from is a good one. Any landing where the plane is reusable is a GREAT one.

I am a GREAT pilot. No medals, no ribbons, no public accolades, just my conviction of my own competence, achieved by a series of "failures" (doing it poorly).

Rob Iuliano said...

You had me at bullshit. :-)

Instead of focusing on the final goal or the outcome, how about we focus on how hard we worked to get there. Look at the work, blood, sweat, tears, etc. it too to get somewhere, not where we are!