No shame in losing
As many of you know I have a 12-year-old son. I guess you can say he's your typical tween boy. He still has that boy joy at times, but other times he's trying to be cool or has an attitude. I'm not particularly fond of the attitude persona but it is part of him. He's intelligent, kind, thoughtful, hilarious, inventive, creative and sensitive. He's also a procrastinator, dramatic, negative and lacks self-confidence. Some kids are born with self-confidence and others have to develop it. My son appears to be the latter.
Over the years I have consciously worked to make sure he knew that he was capable of doing anything, within reason. I say within reason because little boys will come up with some fascinating things they want to accomplish, like being invisible. In addition to that I worked to make sure that he didn't have an over-inflated ego as well by being honest with him. If he didn't do something as well as I knew he could I wouldn't praise him for it. I mean, if it was bad I would tell him so, but in a way that he would actually listen to my critique. Not that I punished him, I would just say "I know you can do better than that. Try again." I also never let him win at anything. I made sure that he knew when he won against me it was because he actually beat me not because I let him. That's probably why he stopped playing with me for a short period. Losing has always been tough for him.
Fast forward to the present. He, like many people, is still afraid of failing. When he was seven or eight he had a tennis coach because he expressed a desire to play tennis. After a six months to a year he decided he didn't want to play anymore because he didn't want to play in tournaments. Do you know why he didn't want to play in any tournaments? It was because he was afraid of losing in front of people and being embarrassed. He was actually good, so it was quite frustrating and disappointing.
Now he's back to playing tennis again on the high school JV team. He had his first match last week. He played doubles with another kid. They played a pair who were a level or two better than they were. Yes, they lost in fantastic fashion and he was a bit disappointed. So this past Monday he played a singles match. This kid was older than him but they were pretty much the same level. The kid got off to a better start than my son but my son wasn't giving up. After he won two games in a row he had a hard time controlling his smile. He battled back and got within one game. Then it started getting dark. I believe my son could have come back to win, but time was up. After he lost the last game and the match, he calmly walked to the net and shook his opponent's hand. He then gathered his belongings and walked to the gate with his head held high and a bounce in his step. During the match he only got emotionally down very briefly and after that he turned into a fighter.
My husband and I were so very proud of him. I videoed parts of the match which he gleefully watched. He talked about the match in a positive light and was able to discuss what he could improve upon. I felt like he had matured during the match. I know he was maturing before that, but it just seemed to come full circle. He has finally begun to believe in himself and to know that you don't always have to win to be great. As I've always told him, as long as he does his best I will always be proud of him, win or lose.
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