We looked at each other through the squares in the chain link fence that separated us. Her hazel eyes were swimming in the pool of tears that had collected in her bottom eyelid. The rising color in her cheeks and the tremble in her voice told me she was right at the edge of coming apart. Her agonizing plea was, “But I tried my best!”
Though her plea was in the form of a statement, there was a question behind it. What she wanted from me was to explain to her why, if she tried her best, didn’t things work out the way she wanted them to.
What should you say to your six-year-old granddaughter who has struck out for the second time in a row? When the face and heart of innocence is eager to hear the voice of experience give an explanation that will make sense?
- “It’s just a ballgame. Don’t be so upset!”
- “That’s okay because you’ll always be a winner in my eyes.”
- “Quit your crying and get back out there!”
- “If that mean ol’ pitcher had thrown you some better pitches, I’ll bet you would have hit one.”
- “I bet you’ll hit a homerun next time.”
None of those answers seemed right to me. Some of them would have been cruel, some of them simply aren’t true, and some were patronizing. In that split second of time that hung between her searching eyes and my breaking heart, I finally chose to tell her the truth. “That’s just the way things work out sometimes. All any of us can do is do our best. Did you try as hard as you knew how to?”
She gave me a quick nod of assurance.
“Then that’s all there is to it. I don’t blame you for being upset. It hurts when we are disappointed in ourselves. You’ll be okay. We’ll just have to practice more, won’t we? I love you.”
I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the things we have done a poor job of in our country is teaching our children how to cope with disappointment. As a matter of fact, we go to such extremes to keep our children from experiencing disappointment that we turn games of competition into – “Everybody wins. There are no winners and losers.” Every kid now gets a trophy. No one keeps score in the games.
Is that really how life works? Does everyone get the promotion? Does everyone get the raise they want? Do things always go the way we planned for them to go? No they don’t. Nor should they.
Are we guilty of creating unrealistic expectations in our children? Is it possible that this contributes to our universal sense of entitlement where everyone expects to get something for nothing?
In real life the people who never have to deal with disappointment are the ones who don’t try to do anything with their life.
But if you choose to play the game, sometimes you’re going to strike out. That’s okay. Did you do your best? Then that’s all you can do. You’ll survive. Don’t quit just because you struck out.