I’m not an overly competitive mum, but I don’t like to see my kids left out.
My eldest is pretty much average at everything, but he has bags of enthusiasm for the things he loves and bags of confidence to go with it. I admire him for his self-belief. He doesn’t realise when he’s not that great at something and barely seems to notice when he comes last or gets left out.
All he sees are the aspects he has done well – the question he did get right or the tackle where he did get the ball. He sees that one thing and he is happy with what he has achieved. And I am happy for him to see that because it makes him feel good.
But it matters to me how well he does and it matters to me when he gets left out.
He plays rugby for a big team of good players, many of whom have been playing since they were 5 or 6. Having started relatively late at the age of 9, he does pretty well. But he’s not one of the best players. The club is great, it’s an inclusive club that gives everyone a chance. Except on the really big days.
Today he was one of a 20 boy squad playing in a big tournament. He didn’t play the first game, fair enough, he’s not one of the best players. He didn’t play the second. It was hot, surely they would need some fresh players for the third game. They didn’t, well, not my boy at any rate. The coaches were apologetic and my boy remained upbeat, believing he would probably play the next game.
I didn’t realise I was bothered, but when I heard he wasn’t playing that third game I could barely get my lunch down. Which is REALLY unlike me. He loves rugby so much, it’s practically his life, but he’s not good enough to play. I’m pleased to say that again it hurt me more than it hurt him.
Fourth game, semi-final, he’s still not playing. We thought he was, but it turns out there are two kids who share his name, not just one as I’d thought.
Finally it hit my boy. He came off the pitch with tears of pure anger in his eyes. ‘Still not bloody playing.’ I didn’t tell him off for swearing as I would have sworn myself. After nearly five hours on a rugby ground on a boiling hot day without playing a match he was perfectly entitled to swear.
My beautiful little dancer has the same problem. She recently moved up to a higher dance class. I talked her through it in advance. She’s still a good dancer, but this year she will be one of the youngest and unlikely to get to the front. Her dance school, like the rugby club, is great, inclusive and a nice atmosphere.
Every week they award stickers to the children who have tried hard and danced well. Four weeks on, my girl hasn’t had a sticker. Even statistically she should have had one now, regardless of the fact that she is in position while the rest of the world is still messing around and that she tries so hard. So we had tears this week. I felt her pain and the injustice.
We both know what the problem is. The helpers in the class stand in front of a row of children and select a child in their row for a sticker. There is no helper in front of my daughter, so no-one sees her. Apart from her mummy gawping through the glass in the door of course.
One of those helpers is in my own dance class. I knew what I would do, I would ask her to look out for my daughter. I’m not saying give her a sticker, I’m just saying keep an eye on her and see if she’s good enough for one. I shared my plan with my daughter, I thought she would be impressed. She wasn’t.
Five years old and already she doesn’t want mummy to interfere. She will get that sticker and she will do it on her own merit.