Yesterday during a crucial moment in her Under 9s soccer game, my daughter accidentally scored an own-goal. She was defending close to the goal square when someone from the other team kicked the ball which bounced off her shin and went straight into the net.
It was awkward and embarrassing for her. Mortifying and humiliating. Dispiriting. Disappointing.
As I watched from the sidelines with a knot in my stomach, I saw all those emotions flicker across my little girl’s face as the other team cheered and her team-mates look crestfallen. Some of them shouted at her in frustration. Others patted her on the shoulder and told her not to worry. I could see she was worried though.
I wondered if she would cry. I wondered if her love of soccer would be diminished, her confidence crushed.
As a parent, one of the hardest things is to bear witness as your child grapples with negative emotions. We’re programmed – most of us – to want to shield them from unpleasant experiences and the emotional fallout they bring. But in previous generations, there was a tacit understanding that you could not – and should not – try to protect kids from life itself.
Because shit happens and part of growing up is learning how to cope with that.
Ever since ‘parent’ went from something you were to something you did, there’s been a dramatic shift in what parenthood looks like. Now it’s all about the holy grail of parenting: your child’s self-esteem.
It must be actively built up, carefully nurtured and fiercely defended at any cost. Nothing is more important than your child feeling good about him or herself. All the time. No matter what.
Which is totally doable if you swaddle your kid in bubble wrap and then put them into storage until they’re, oh, 25. How else to protect them from negative emotions?
Today, everyone is buzzing with news that the AFL are introducing new rules for all junior players under 10 that will mean no scoreboard, ladders or match results. According to the AFL, the reason for the scoring ban is to eliminate the idea of competition and instead, encourage the spirit of participation.
Ah, participation. Also know as Everyone-Gets-A-Prize.