I have long been irritated at the competitive attitude in the great US of A. I remember when my fabulous daughter rode in the Hampton Classic in the Lead Line with three hundred other darlings. Everyone who entered left the ring with a light blue ribbon. One girl left the ring with the true first place ribbon. It was hard to explain to my five-year old that she didn’t win when she was standing there with a blue ribbon in her hand saying she did. She went on to win a zillion blue ribbons in her equestrian career. She didn’t need a false start to get there.
And don’t get me started about my friend’s sons and their ponies. When they got their ponies, we asked them what they wanted to name them. A (the older one, what a surprise - thank God I’m a middle, well adjusted child) answered, “I will call my pony Winner and G can call his pony Loser.” He did name his pony Winner and I thought it was a heavy weight to carry into the ring.
If we stopped pretending that winning is everything, and the only thing for which to strive, perhaps we wouldn’t need to hand out false first prizes all the time.
It’s like party bags. I grew up before party bags were at all birthday parties. You went to the birthday party, you were entertained, got great food and cake, and brought a gift for the honoree because it was his or her birthday, not yours. Making sure that everyone at the party leaves with a gift is ridiculous and doesn’t teach that some things are just plain not about you. And sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. And sometimes it’s your birthday and other times it is not.
The problem is the expectation that everything should be a win.
Winning means more because it doesn’t happen all the time. That’s the point. And winning something big like an Academy Award or a gold medal at the Olympics is the height of achievement in one’s life. I do not know this personally, having never won something that big, but I have won a number of times in my life, and I know that exuberant feeling that says, “Well done. You did it.” And I don’t want it to come too easily.
Then again, there was my father’s approach, which I do not advocate. I came in second in the first tennis tournament I entered in Virginia. I called him and told him, excited by my achievement.
He said, “Well, you know the difference between first place and second place?”
“No,” I said, stupidly. I should have just hung up the phone.
“Winning and losing.”
See, that’s the mistake. Not winning is not losing. Losing is not trying at all. Losing is not doing your best. Losing is not a bad thing sometimes. If you won all the time, where would the high come from? It took me a long time to get it, but this weekend I experienced the parental challenge of a child who believes she has won when she hasn’t, and I just wanted to point it out to you all again. We all know it. How about we start living it?
That said, I have entered a blog contest and really want to win. Could you… just kidding.