Friday, August 3, 2012

The Drive to Win

We have all been there, either as children or parents of a child that didn't want to even try. Having a child that tries and fails is one thing. Having a child that doesn't even want to try is another. As a parent, there is a deeper kind of failure. What did I do to have this child so deathly afraid of failure that he won't even try? Why doesn't he want to learn something new, to play to WIN?

I experience dread and sorrow when my children give up and/or don't bother trying. Perhaps my own drive to win makes it so significant for them that hey resist it altogether. I have been known to make "getting it right" a pretty intense endeavor.
Their little faces droop and they look down and away, not able to look me in the eye for shame of disappointment. My head fills with WHY? WHY? WHY?
I want to shout, "It's OKAY to play and lose, just PLAY!"
Whether it's not wanting to try kickball, soccer or to get an "A"...I am convinced there is something wrong with ME as a parent because my children don't, in certain areas, have any drive to win.

When the South Korean, Chinese and Indonesian teams were eliminated from Olympic competition for not playing to win, it reeked... not of shrewd strategy as they intended, but of a failure of sportmanship. It is that lack of sportsmanship, of honor and pride in oneself that is most disappointing. Although we know they wanted to win, the game they played and lost on purpose was inauthentic to their human spirit. It struck a chord in my wondering regards to my children why would they not want to win?

Perhaps for them, it is like the badminton players, if they don't play the way they could, then in the end they do win. They win at being who they are, as they are. Their seven and nine year old identities aren't threatened by a bigger win. They will take the small loss and keep their image of themselves intact. Because a bigger loss is to threatening. It is there, in the lack of confidence in themselves to go up against a bigger threat and win, that has us scream from the stands at the players. It makes us mad. An athlete or performer is supposed to be courageous and try anyway, aren't they? If not they are cheating the human race.
I see now, that my upset with my boys,whether expressed or not, comes from wanting them to not cheat themselves out on living, from being committed to them living fully.

Whatever the reason is there for them, I take great deep breaths whenever my boys don't want to try something. When I see other boys running across the street to baseball or soccer practice, I sigh to myself and and let it go...and then go ask them about the lego tower they are building that day. I let go and listen.

When we signed the boys up for Cub Scouts, we hoped they would be introduced to new things. And they were. The first time Ben tried archery, he was good at it, but I coached him from the sidelines and was told by the trainer that I can't do that. He sighed and said "Geez, can you trust me Mom?" So I just stayed quiet, and watched and listened to the coach and to him.
The second time he tried archery, Ben came home radiant from his Cub Scout camp weekend away with Daddy. His chest puffed out and head held high, he told me how much fun he had. Then he smiled from ear to ear as his father told me how our son scored the highest score, he had fathers and trainers patting him on the back and telling him he was excellent. Trainers gave Todd their numbers. Fathers stopped their cars to shout through open windows and dust at Todd to "make sure to get that kid a bow!" before they departed the camp. My son, the one who previously never wanted to try a sport, had found his "thing". He announced he wanted to get a scholarship to college with archery and go to the Olympics. He wants that gold medal.

So we got him lessons with an archery Olympic gold medalist instructor, and last night he pulled the bow for an hour, came home with fingers raw and back aching. Yet he did it, and when the session was over, he looked up at the posters of his 17 year old female instructor, who was the first female gold medalist, and sighed. That gold, that is what he wants. Before bed, when my husband whispered in awe, the details of how hard Ben worked, and how he never complained or gave up, I wanted to weep with joy.

You can imagine how thrilled my husband and I are, and how the Olympics takes on a whole new signifigance that it never had before. Suddenly, paying a hundred bucks, if necessary, (which it wasn't, it only cost 7 dollars more a month) didn't seem too much to have our son watch the Olympic archery competition and live into his dreams. When he anticipated today's men's match he secretly admitted to his father that he hoped the USA archer, who is one of the best, didn't win, because then HE would be the first American to win when he goes to the Olympics in 2020 when he is 17.

I am clear that the odds are great. He may not go to the Olympics, he may not even want to after a few months or years. And that would be perfect too. He came up with this dream, and whether it happens or not only matters to me because it matters to him. So if that's what he wants we will do whatever it takes to support him. We are clear it absolutely could happen for him, and we envision it with him, in a mellow manner, and he gets starry eyed....and we delight in his desire to make his dreams come true. I know the most important thing I can do is not to shout encouragement at him, but to listen to why and how he plans to win. And if it doesn't happen, we will remind him, that what really counts is not the winning, or even the drive to win, which I thought was so important, but playing and doing what matters to you, authentically, fully self expressed and with your very all...that is the triumph of the human spirit.

Here's to people who who play, and "Go for the Gold" everywhere.

Zen Honeycutt
P.S. If you know my son,please ask him what is new for him, rather than telling him about this article. He knows I write about him, but it would be more fun for him to be asked and then to tell you.

No comments:

Post a Comment