My son is 5 years old and playing in his first year of soccer. Because he is playing in the under 6 division, they are not allowed to keep score therefore allowing everyone to be a “winner”. I know many people believe this sounds just great, but to be honest, it’s a nightmare. The truth is that I don’t understand why we can’t keep score and frankly the kids don’t either.
The conversations about the games between my son and I keep becoming more awkward. He’s a really smart kid and the whole idea of everyone winning is something he is just not buying. After we lost our 6th game in a row, (not that anyone was keeping score except that EVERYONE was keeping score), my son says to me “Mom we are SO bad, we haven’t even scored one goal!” Unfortunately, because the coach is watching me, all I can do is smile and say, “Oh honey, scoring goals isn’t important. The most important thing is that you are having fun.”
At this point, my son looks at me like I am crazy and responds with “Then why do we have teams if no one cares who scores, what is the point of the game?” My thought exactly. So after looking around to make sure no one is watching me, I kneel down next to him, far away from the ears of parents who want their kids to believe they are wonderful at everything no matter how untalented they may be and say “You’re right. You and your whole team aren’t very good. You score in the wrong goal, you spend half your time lying on the field pretending you are a robot, and really don’t understand the game at all” (which is evident by the fact that he continues to pick the ball up with his hands and run with it.) Normally, after this secretive conversation, my son will say something very insightful like “Yeah mom, we stink…do you have any more fruit snacks?” Amazingly he isn’t crushed by the fact that they lost or by the truth about his or his soccer teams abilities. Somehow he is able to absorb this harsh reality and move on. MIRACLE!
I know we all want our kids to feel good about themselves, have fun while playing sports, and learn it is not always about winning and losing but REALLY, I think we have taken it a bit far. Recently I heard that parents being interviewed at Mattel told the game makers that they wanted to take away the “chutes” part of “Chutes and Ladders”. When asked why they said it was because their kids didn’t like to slide down to the bottom and have to start over. No wonder why so many kids now move back home after college because the ‘real world’ is too tough. If you can’t handle rolling a 3, landing on the chute and taking a ride down the candy cane slide, you’re screwed! I promise, life is going to be a real shit storm for you.
This is never more evident to me than during those painful first rounds of American Idol. All I can think when I watch those poor souls sing horribly off key is that their parents and friends have let them down. Luckily for me, I never had this problem. This is why I think I have made it to adulthood as a fairly happy and balanced human. When I was a kid, I loved to sing. Yet my mother never had a problem letting me know this was not a path I should follow. And to clarify, most of her comments would come only seconds AFTER I told her my dream was to be on stage, singing and dancing like the star I was meant to be. She didn’t sugar coat it either, it was clear what she was trying to say when she looked me straight in the eyes and said “Hey Kelsey, don’t waste your time, …your tone deaf. You can’t sing at all and it is torture to listen to you. Pick a new dream, one you have a chance at achieving.”
Looking back, maybe she was wrong and should have let me enter song competitions and try to win the lead in the school musical. But chances are it would have been a waste of my time and I would have ended up being a back up dancer in Oklahoma (which just would not have worked for someone like me.) Instead I worked on swimming faster, talking more, and trying to make people laugh. I still ended up on stage but just in a different way.
So my point is this…let the kids win, let the kids lose, and let them learn that life isn’t always perfect. And if you want them to do something where they don’t keep score, teach them to bake.