*I’m working on a couple of writing projects that are due next week, so I’ll be putting up some posts from my archives for the next several days. This post was originally published in 2008.
A few days ago, as I waited for my kids to dry off at their swim meet, I caught the last part of another group’s race.
All of the swimmers had finished, except for a young girl in the middle lane. She was struggling with her backstroke and was not quite halfway through her lap.
Most of the cheering had quieted and all eyes were on her.
But one voice could still be heard.
Alongside the pool, this young girl’s dad walked at the same pace she swam.
“You can do it! Keep going!” he shouted, smiling.
You could tell he was proud that, even though she was having a hard time, she wasn’t giving up.
It didn’t matter that the other swimmers had already finished.
It didn’t matter that his child would come in last.
What mattered to this man was that his daughter knew he believed in her.
He wasn’t sitting back in the bleachers, disappointed or frustrated. He was by her side, cheering her on. And when she finished her lap and climbed out of the pool, he beamed.
“Good job!” he shouted.
I got a lump in my throat watching.
And it reminded me that winning isn’t as important as we often make it out to be.
I think sometimes we get too caught up in wanting our kids to succeed, focusing more on competing than whether or not they are having fun or building character.
And maybe we forget that sometimes, trying is winning.
Even though I appreciate my kids’ strengths and weaknesses, and I know they’ll be good at some things and not others, I admit there have been times I’ve caught myself on the edge of my seat at a game wanting my child to score that winning goal.
Or make that basket.
Or hit that homerun.
Most of the time, I think our desire to see our kids succeed simply comes from wanting the best for them – whether it’s in school, sports, or life. And I’m not saying that winning is bad. It’s not. We should teach our kids excellence and to reach for goals, try hard, and learn how to apply themselves.
But I believe there’s a balance to be found, even though that’s sometimes hard to do.
If our kids are giving their best effort, should it matter if they come in last?
And what good is first place if they only push themselves for our approval?
A loss every now and then just might build more character than an undefeated season.
I want to remember how that dad at the swim meet encouraged his daughter.
I want to remember his seemingly unconditional pride.
Because I want to give my kids that same kind of encouragment.
Whether they come in first place or last.
Whether they win or lose.
I want them to know I’m proud of them.