I am reminded after my last post of the famous song that begins, “You can’t always get what you want.” If lyrics hold true, I then must assume that yesterday Swim Chick somehow got what she needs. I actually don’t doubt that it was one of those “life lessons” we all must learn along the way.
Since last summer, Swim Chick and a group of six other 7th and 8th graders have worked diligently preparing for Odyssey of the Mind competition. More here on her teams chosen problem this year, The Large and Small of It. They won the regional competition and put in even more hours preparing for the state competition, making improvements based on the comments of the judges at regionals. Saturday morning at 5:00 a.m. they headed off, intent on placing 1st or 2nd at the state competition and thereby qualifying for Worlds, which they competed at last year.
When I watched Swim Chick’s group present their skit, I knew that they were not as “on” as they probably needed to be. It was good, but it wasn’t great. They were followed by the 1st place team from the other regional competition; that team was indeed great. The consensus among the parents was that their finish would largely be determined by how well they and the other team did on the “spontaneous” portion of the competition, where teams are given a problem and asked to solve it creatively. We thought they still had a chance at 2nd, though our guess was that the last team up would take their division’s 1st place.
Cue the awards presentation. At least the wait wasn’t long. Only the top three teams in each division were recognized, and, you guessed it, Swim Chick’s team was called to the podium first, in 3rd place. To make the defeat even more bitter, the 2nd place team was a team they had beaten in the regional competition. In addition, they had beaten both teams in the spontaneous problem, but they had scored too low on the long-term problem for it to make a difference. To the team’s credit they were gracious in defeat, accepting their medals with thanks and shaking hands with the other teams. It was only when we reached the car that the tears began.
I hate this part of parenting. There’s no way for me to “fix” this disappointment. I know it’s something everyone has to learn to deal with at some point, but it would be nice if those lessons could wait a while longer. I did have a very interesting conversation with Swim Chick about the whole experience, though. We were talking about their performance, and I told her that I just didn’t think their skit this time was a good as it had been in the past. I told her that happens sometimes, and it’s hard to say why. She said, “I know. I didn’t think it went very well, but afterwards, everyone else said, ‘Oh, no. It was great!’ It makes me mad that they would say that when it wasn’t.” I reminded her that I had not told her it was great, and she said she knew I hadn’t, and she was glad that I didn’t try to lie to her about it. This seemed to sum up for me the reason that I avoid insincere or automatic praise for my kids. They know when they’ve done well, and they know when they haven’t. My goal is to provide them with encouragement to give whatever they try their best effort and to congratulate them on their achievements. And now, I guess, my goal is to commiserate with Swim Chick and encourage her to think about what could have gone better this year so that they improve for next year. The good news is she’s eagerly awaiting the announcement of the new projects so that her team can start planning for a return to Worlds in 2008.
And speaking of not always getting what you want. Wish Adventure Guy luck as he runs the Boston Marathon tomorrow. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for him, but unfortunately, this year’ s race comes with this advisory. Since there is no way he’ll back out of something like this, I am thinking very warm thoughts for him!