I don’t like to lose. Maybe it’s because as the youngest of the family, I spent my early years losing in everything. From checkers to tic tac toe to games of HORSE, I lost a lot. I deeply wanted to win, and from that I developed a deep sense of competitiveness that lasted into my teen years. I will be honest; I was not a good loser. I remember stomping off after a board game or crying real tears over a silly game. From there, I started to hate playing games that I knew I couldn’t win.
I’ve lost a lot. As an athlete, I lost more basketball games than I can even count. I lost crucial softball games that still have left a bitter taste in my mouth. Losing isn’t fun. It’s even worse when you just aren’t a good loser. I hated playing board games with friends because I wasn’t a good loser and I had a really hard time enjoying the game without winning.
If you have never lost, you should try it. It stinks. Trust me on this one.
After a basketball game, there would be times when I would play-by-play calls from the refs. When I lost, it had to be someone else’s fault. Someone else’s ill-timed foul, missed shot or bad call. Fun fact: sometimes you lose because you lack the skill, knowledge, or even popularity to beat your opponent. That’s a hard pill to swallow from someone with a competitive drive and the desire to win.
Sometimes you just lose.
Raising kids in a “participation trophy” society is tough. I want my kids to lose and know how to lose graciously. I want my kids to win and to win empathetically. My kids have received trophies for completing seasons of t-ball and medals for soccer. Did they win that award? No. Did they lose? Not really. They are still young so scores are not kept and there truly are no losers or winners. That little trophy symbolizes a spring season of building sandcastles in the infield or picking dandelions on the soccer field and I am okay with that.
My kids have already learned to lose. Maybe it’s still my competitiveness deep in my soul, but if I know where the match is during a game of Memory, you bet I’m going to match it. Sure, my kids have won (somehow my four-year-old is truthfully undefeated against me in Candyland, but that’s a story for another day). Have tears been shed? Yep. Have there been celebrations when they win? For sure. But, my job as a parent is to raise kids that can lose. I want them to understand their emotions in relation to winning and losing. I want them to be able to empathize with a friend after a loss. I want them to cheer for a friend when they win. I want them to know that wins and losses don’t define them. Losing is okay.
I won’t say my kids are gracious losers just yet. We are working on it. They don’t always lose with a smile on their face and that’s okay. As an adult there are still times that I “lose” in some sense and it burns. But if they can be great cheerleaders for friends and try their best when it’s their time, it will come.