Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

February 4, 2011

It's not the winning.....or is it?

I remember my primary headmaster giving us all a pep-talk before a school sports day. "It's not the winning; it's the taking part." I wasn't quite sure what he was on about to be honest and it didn't make me feel any better when he said it again after I'd suffered a crushing defeat in the sack race. Fast forward about three decades and here I am saying those exact same words to my son.

To cut a very long and bizarre story short, he inadvertently ended up in a hip hop dance competition. We thought it was a simple show for mums and dads; turns out to be a proper competition with a clipboard-wielding judge. Gulp.

Resisting the urge to scarper down the fire exit, Daddy struggled to tolerate a nasty hangover and I struggled to contain a tired toddler while the Bigger Boy amazed us all by busting his moves on the dance floor. It was daunting circumstances by anyone's standards (rows and rows of audience, spotlights - did I mention the judge with a clipboard?) and yet he ended up in the final. 'Hurray', we cheered.

He was totally unfazed by the whole thing, until the prizes started to be announced. As the awards for 'under 10's tango' and the 'under 5's cha cha' (goggles in disbelief) were given out, my son's eyes lit up at the sight of the shiny trophies being given to the winners.

Then it was his category and he was given a medal for 6th place - brilliant, 'whoop whoop' we cried from our seats. And then............the overall winner was handed......a shiny trophy.

Oh, crap.

His face crumbled and his lip started to quiver. As he walked back to us, the tears started to flow and no matter how much praise and comfort we offered, all he could say was 'But (sob) I (sob) wanted (sob) a (sob sob) trophy.'

The parenting books don't tell you about all this, do they? They don't come with a 5 point plan for easing the pain of disappointment. So, just how do you manage this as a parent? How do you help your children to overcome heart-breaking disappointment? And how do you shake off those images in your head of your little boy, sad and alone in front of a big crowd, and resist the urge to smother him with hugs and run off to eat jelly and forget it ever happened?

The happy ending to our little story is that despite everything, he went to bed that night clutching his medal and continued to hold it for most of the next day. Maybe my 'It's not the winning' pep talk did sink in after all.

I really hope so, because I don't think I am made of strong enough stuff to go through that again.



  1. Hmmm, I'm not looking forward to having to deal with situations like this. I think we just have to be thankful that these are fleeting moments in our kids lives!!!

  2. Oh, you should come over here (USA) where either everyone wins or there's no winner at all. In the teeny baseball leagues my sons used to ask "Why is it always a tie?".

  3. If you think about it these parenting books don't tell you much really do they? Not the important, true, helpful things anyway. Am going through another learning curve with my eldest right now, its never bloody ending isn't it! Well done your boy sounds like he did himself and you guys proud,dancing takes courage in my book.

  4. I would have said give him a treat, make a fuss and put medal in pride of place and also sports days are exactly what grand parents are made for!! (even if you have to hire one!!)

  5. Did you think about consoling him by agreeing to buy him a nice reed instrument, like an oboe? Chinese Mother would approve... x (my heart breaks for him but this is not the first or the last time he'll learn this lesson. Argh.)

  6. Just had the same deal at kids cricket. I feel like I have been put through the wringer. Buggered if we do, buggered if we don't. I feel like saying to my son - "get used to it mate - my whole mothering is a no win situtaion too...."

  7. Awwwww! Poor little man. Such a sweet mental picture of him sleeping with the medal. Hope you've recovered.

  8. I try and remember that children need to learn to deal with disappointment or they won't be able to deal with it as adults. Doesn't stop me wanting to wrap them in cotton wool, but it does help a little with the heartache.


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