We Tell Them it’s Okay to Fail, but Do We Really Mean It?
Last night I scrolled through my Facebook feed. A feed that, after a busy weekend for so many, contained posts by parents excited about their kids achievements. Tournaments, competitions, performances happen every weekend and every weekend, it’s there: the photo of the kid with the medal, with the certificate, with the bouquet of flowers after an award winning performance.
Do you know what’s not there? The 8th place ribbon, the no-so-good performance, the kid who remained sitting because they did not make it on the podium.
Because that’s what social media is about, isn’t it? Sharing our achievements, and most of all, our kids’ achievements (because really, only us parents use facebook anymore. The young’uns Instagram and Snapchat and whatever else they’ve come up with to get likes).
I’m not pointing the finger here, I’m simply making an observation. I didn’t post anything about this weekend on social media. Partly because I wasn’t on it but, when I thought about it this morning I asked myself: “Would I have posted if my daughter had won? Would I have put up the photos of her if she’d been loaded down with medals like the rest of her teammates?”
I don’t know. I do know I’ve done it in the past. In fact, I started to think about my facebook posts. Have I posted all of Miles’s 12th, 18th, 15th, 9th place motocross finishes? Or just when he took first, second, third. I sure didn’t post Bree tying for 7th place in gymnastics Saturday. Hell, I didn’t even stay for the awards knowing she didn’t place.
Am I that super competitive parent who thinks my kids are worthy of praise only when they win? Hell, no. I told my daughter I was so, so proud of her this weekend. And I was. I was also proud of her when she danced her ballet solo, so proud it brought tears to my eyes, even when she got the lowest mark in her entire group. But did I post it? Yes…and no. When there was no one marking her so I didn’t know how she placed, when she was simply dancing for an audience, I posted it. The moment she competed and couldn’t quite keep up, the posts ended. In fact, I just about made excuses for her results right here by saying she chose to compete in an incredibly hard skill against intense, older, and more experienced competition. Like that matters! My daughter did her best, danced her heart out and I was making excuses for her?!!
I did not post the moment she did not win. And you know what else I didn’t post? How fucking amazed I am that my daughter will compete, whether in gymnastics, or dance, or swimming, time and time again knowing she will not win. She shows up, often knowing she will lose, facing those she knows are better/faster/older/more experienced than her, and gives it her all. That takes a shit-ton more courage than getting up there knowing you’re one of the best. At least, I think it does. And I told her that, this weekend. When she showed up at her gymnastics competition on day two, after having watched girls younger than her do better than her, watching her teammates receive medals on the podium and never getting up there herself, she proved herself to be more courageous than me. I would have quit or tried to find a way out, making excuses why I couldn’t compete. Because then, I wouldn’t have to put myself in a position where people could see I wasn’t as good as the rest of them. Why would I suffer watching others shine while I shrunk? To let others see that you’d competed, and lost.
Because that’s what we do, isn’t it? We praise the winners. Just look at your Facebook feed, at your friends Facebook feeds, Instagram, Twitter. We post the wins. We filter out the bad and only show our best selves, literally and figuratively. Both my kids went to provincials in swimming last year and I bet you have no idea how my daughter placed, but you sure know that my son got fourth. Hell, you probably don’t even know that he also got 8th, 12th and 16th. Just the fourth.
Not the standing on the blocks, for everyone to see, knowing you will not come out victorious. Not the 6th, 7th, and 8th place finishes; only the medals.
We tell them it’s about giving it their all, doing their best, walking off the ice/mat/pool/track/gymnasium (insert whatever applies to you here) being proud of their achievements. But do we really mean that? Or if we do really, truly mean that (and I think we do, because ultimately, we love and care for our kids and are proud of them no matter what…or we should be) why aren’t we posting it? Why do we tell them we’re proud, and yet, not post when they fall short of the win? No wonder they cry when they don’t do as well as we want them to (no, not all of them. I’ve just watched a lot of competitions these past few months and saw many tears when mistakes were made), they know they’ve lost. They won’t win. Their performance had just gone from post-worthy, to nothing.
We want our kids to be the best, of course we do. Doesn’t every crazed hockey parent want their kid to be the next Wayne Gretzky? Because I know many parent’s who’ve rolled their eyes saying, “their kid is not the next Wayne Gretzky.” And yet, there will be another Wayne Gretzky and he or she will be someone’s kid (not mine, obviously, I hate hockey. But, you know what I mean.). There will always be another Wayne Gretzky, and Ryan Dungee, and Chase Elliott (yeah, my knowledge of sports is really limited, sorry, just put in whatever floats your boat) and they will be someone’s kid and everyone will want to know them. And there will also be countless others who will walk off that field having lost, the ones who played with that kid but aren’t remembered because they just weren’t as good. It’s those who know it’s okay not to be that guy, that they are still worthy of being celebrated despite not getting that win, who will have the guts to go after whoever it is they do want to be. The ones who weren’t celebrated because they didn’t win? Will spend their lives wondering, what’s the point?
So, here you go: this weekend, my daughter competed in gymnastics. She fell off the beam her. But she got back up. She couldn’t do a back handspring and knew she’d lose points because of it, but she still showed up and did her floor routine. Her wrist was injured, but she still got up and tried her hardest on the bars. Her injury had held her back from training, and yet, she still did her events knowing she was wobbly, knowing her legs just weren’t quite as steady as they could be. And then, when she got some of the lowest scores out of her entire team, she woke up at 6AM on a Sunday to do it all over again. She did improve and this time, she didn’t fall off the beam. She still didn’t do a back handspring though, and when her teammates got up on that podium, she cheered and smiled and was happy for them, and she even got on there for one event. She showed up and gave it her all, and when she was done, she held up her 6th, 7th, and 8th place finishes and said, “look how pretty my ribbons are.”
That’s pretty fucking amazing, if you ask me. And next time, I’ll be sure to post that.