Monday, November 28, 2016

Beyond the Game - Lessons in Winning and Losing

My youngest son turns seven tomorrow. Nothing melts my heart more than watching and listening to him read at the kitchen table. It is a powerful and moving moment in his development. Tonight is a little different though. Tonight I was provided with a rather simple, yet significant reminder of the importance of both tears and laughter in the process of learning. Let me explain.

Just moments before he was reading in the kitchen, he and I had taken up a heated game of Madden on the gaming system. (Keep in mind I am by no means a "gamer" as I leave that up to the older kids. Yes, I have those also.) Also worth noting is that my youngest picks up on the older siblings talents, traits and their habits almost to a fault. We will leave that to be for now.

To my surprise I quickly found myself in a position to "win" the game with only a minute on the clock. A couple of throws down the sideline, a quick run up the middle and the taste of sweet victory would be mine. I could sense the "W".

Here is where the simplicity gets not-so-simple. I was faced with a decision that any parent has experienced as they raise their young children. And for most of us it is one of the toughest decisions.

Simply: Do I let him win the game?

My decision, and one that came at the expense of learning the hard way with my almost 16 year-old, was answered with one quick pass down the field. And just like that the clock struck "zeros". The tears came almost instantaneously. Not mine of course. Rather his. My response in this moment would be the most important lesson of the night. I could either coach him up (as parents this is what we do) or simply walk away knowing he would eventually pull it together. For me, I chose something somewhat right down the middle. This would become a lesson in winning and losing.

Rowan and I agreed that winning is by far the greater (and more enjoyable) feeling of the two. However, we also talked about losing and that there are some much needed lessons with that as well. What happened over those next few moments was the most important teaching of all. Once the tears had subsided and we had processed how things played out, he soon realized, even at his young age, that there are significant lessons on both sides of the ball. We talked about sportsmanship, being a good competitor and above all else, having a relentless pursuit of working toward success. For him that meant "not quitting".

Hopefully the next time my child is faced with winning versus losing he handles it with his head held a little higher than the time before. He has room to grow and it won't come easy and not overnight. He has years of successes and failures ahead of him. And for that reason alone, we have to let them fail. Remember, if you give it everything you have, you try your best and you play fairly and positively, losing can posses some amazing moments in learning even more than winning itself.