Last Friday, my five year old got an elephant stamp for finishing her lunch. I was about to burst with pride, ‘AN ELEPHANT STAMP! WELL DONE YOU!’
‘What else do you get elephant stamps for?’ I asked.
‘Oh, you know, keeping our feet on the floor, listening to show and tell even if it’s boring, putting rubbish in the bin. Normal stuff.’
Normal stuff. Exactly. I’m all for positive re-enforcement, but where are my elephant stamps?
Sometimes, when I accomplish something that may be quite mundane to someone else, I want to stand on the roof with my arms outstretched. I would shout, ‘LOOK! SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE! THREE CHILDREN WITH NEAT HAIR, READY TO LEAVE THE HOUSE, AND IT’S NOT EVEN EIGHT O’CLOCK!’
But imagine what would happen if I did that. Once the neighbours had alerted the police to the madwoman on the roof, they’d say, ‘Yes, well, you’re a mother. It’s your job to get your kids groomed and to school on time. That’s the minimum requirement. What do you want, a medal?’
Thank you, that would be nice. I see other people receiving gongs all the time. I see rugby league players and chefs getting standing ovations for learning to tango on Dancing With The Stars. A lawyer makes a nice soufflé and is showered with glitter and a book deal. On Survivor, you get a hot bath if you eat pelican guts.
The common denominator here, of course, is those winners are out of their comfort zone – they are trying something new. They are on a journey. Wait. No, they’re not, they’re on television.
There are some occupations that reward excellence and achievement with medals, trophies and titles yes, they absolutely deserve them. Soldiers on the front line, scientists at the pointy end of medical research. But there are also awards galore in advertising, acting, and real estate. I visited an estate agent’s office recently and the walls were hung with so many plaques I hope they were re-enforced with steel girders.
But what about regular people? The foot soldiers of life, who drive buses, make sandwiches, order stationery, stack the shelves, sort out new software. No gongs there, just the opposite. If an office manager gets a teensy bit boasty, the feedback (silent or spoken) would probably be, ‘So you upgraded Microsoft Office without crashing the entire network? Whoop doop. It’s your job.’