All it took was four magical words.“You get a ring.” Win the championship game, and you get a ring. I could see his eyes light up, and I immediately knew. I knew if he didn’t win that game, the tears would flow. I knew the disappointment would set in immediately. And I knew, as his mom, that my heart would break for him, and yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was for the best.
Let me be clear. I said championship, but this wasn’t just any championship. This was the losing bracket of a 6-year-old recreational basketball league. Yes, losing. My son’s team had won approximately three games all season, and while they were on an upswing, they weren’t exactly championship caliber. But don’t tell them that. These boys weren’t the best in their league, but in their eyes, this was the playoffs, the big dance, and I admired their passion. Somehow his team pulled out a W and found themselves playing for all the marbles. And thus, we arrived on game day, anxiety flowing, ring at stake, and dove headfirst into the land of disappointment. I won’t lie. Even I teared up a bit at the end. However, when push came to shove and the clock hit zero, my husband and I were somewhat ok with my son and his team losing. Disappointment is never fun, but it is a feeling we want our children to experience and learn how to handle.
I scrolled through social media later that night and saw it. Countless posts from parents of their kids and their winning teams. Championship rings, team photos, and smiles on their faces. It made me cringe a little. Out of jealousy, maybe. But at the same time, I know the game played out as it should. Andrew may have played his heart out, but the better team won. (And they are six, of course, that’s not lost on me either.) No parent wants their child to know disappointment, but that’s life. My husband and I had this conversation multiple times over the last couple of days. “I can tell his anxiety is higher, and he is nervous,” I said prior to the game. My husband would quickly add, “That’s ok. I want him to care. I want him to feel that hunger and drive.” And you know what? He is right. I want him to know what it’s like to feel those feelings of both victory and defeat. And this weekend, we got the later.
The buzzer sounded Sunday, and I could see the tears running down his cheeks. He pretended it wasn’t because of the game, but alas, we all knew he was disappointed. He wouldn’t even wear his runner-up medal. We reminded him how proud we were of his effort, how much we love him, and how we saw his amazing effort, but in his eyes, without the ring, it didn’t matter. We will keep pushing and reminding him that life isn’t made up of rings and medals, and hopefully, he will try again. Bottom line, we hope he left that gymnasium with a little bit of humility and the ability to lose (and hopefully win) with grace. What matters is you get back on the horse, you get better through any disappointment, and you always try again.
Andrew didn’t get the ring this weekend, but hopefully, he will in the future. In the meantime, he is working on perfecting his layup. While a win is never guaranteed, he can hopefully understand how he has improved and deal with any disappointment in the future. It’s definitely not basketball, but the game of life isn’t easy. And while it’s no championship ring, I got your back, kid.