Call me crazy—my kids do, but I have some mixed feelings on this make-sure-everyone-gets-a-medal, award or ribbon thing we’ve got going on. I guess you could call me a realist. In life and in baseball there are clearly winners and losers. However as I sat and watched my boys at a swim meet 11-hours from home I started thinking, could there be some gray area?
Life is tough and it naturally forces winners and losers from so many different situations. When our kids are young we want to shield them from these bumps and bruises. When our kids start out in sports, they all receive participation ribbons or small trophies for coming out and playing. I often think that the trophies should be for the parents who drive the kids to the practices, sit in the freezing cold and pack snacks for kids who have a plethora of allergies, dislikes and opinions on what constitutes a great after-game treat; but I digress.
I, being the mom to five boys, three of whom are in competitive sports, usually toss these awards as soon as they walk into our house. That is, until the boys started competitively swimming. I hustle three small humans to the YMCA pool every day after school, four days per week to watch them work their tails off for a sport they love. One of my crew went through months of lessons, stroke development and then finally, after private lessons with a fantastic instructor he mastered breathing (an important thing to know when you’re a swimmer) and was able to join the swim team.
When this guy who’d worked so hard to join the swim team, swam in his first competitive meet, he was a ball of nerves, and while my mama heart was bursting with pride, the judges didn’t share my sentiment. My son disqualified in his last event of the day—he had no idea. My husband and I never told him. We congratulated the little dude on a race well swam, and for doing his very best, even though he looked a little bit like a drowning chicken. So, instead of a ribbon, my boy received a big, yellow, disqualification slip.
Did we take the coward’s way out? We probably did.
A few weeks later when my older sons were in Boise swimming, after working for months to reach qualifying times, I sat on a sweltering pool deck and watched 430 of the region’s best swimmers compete to place in the top fifteen. However, after three-days at a pool and a twelve-hundred-fifty mile car trip, I wasn’t as quick to throw out that 11th-place ribbon. So, maybe 11th place is just fine for a ribbon. Hey, he worked hard to earn them.