Wouldn’t it be nice if our children could go through life without ever knowing what disappointment is? I would love to protect both of my kids from all the disappointments in life – being hurt by friends, losing a loved-one, having their heart broken, getting a bad grade, having a horrible boss or losing a competition. Unfortunately, that’s not really how life works. Working through disappointment as a child, prepares you for how to deal with it as an adult because unfortunately, disappointment is inevitable.
My 5th grade son Joey has been competing in Odyssey of the Mind since kindergarten. I think he is the only kid in his school district who can say that. He loves it. He has been on the same team now for four years. He has qualified at the regional level for the state competition three years in a row now. Unfortunately, the first year, half of our team members were going to be out of town for spring break and were unable to compete. Last year, the team took third place at state. First and second place teams are invited to attend worlds. Since one of the top teams could not attend, Joey’s team was extended an invitation. However, it was in Iowa, about 14 hours away, and very costly, so we were not prepared.
Joey and his teammates went into this year with determination to final for and attend the worlds competition in Michigan. You can see how badly by reading this article and watching the video. The coaches and parents were very supportive. The kids worked really hard putting hours upon hours in to preparing. The team took second place at Regionals. They actually had the highest score on long-term but were a little short on spontaneous, putting them in second. They continued to work hard to prepare for state. They practiced spontaneous over and over and made minor changes to their long-term problem. The day before state one of their teammates came down with a fever. The team immediately came up with plan B and put it into action. They rocked their long-term performance even with the cast change.
Then it came time for spontaneous. The team goes in alone for this – no coaches, no parents. They are told whether it is a verbal or a hands-on and they have one minute to decide which five of the six members will participate. It’s a lot of pressure. The teammates typically come out saying they did great. Not this time. Joey came out shaking his hand as if he was iffy and holding back tears. They aren’t allowed to tell anyone what the spontaneous was until after awards. I could tell he was ready to bust and was no longer confident he was going to worlds. UGH! The rest of the afternoon, other than when we had a fun team lunch, was spent worrying.
We arrived for awards. That energy that was present during awards at regionals just wasn’t there. I thought for sure our team would be third place again and we’d have to wait on an invite to worlds. They announced third place and it wasn’t us. I was briefly hopeful. They announced second and again it wasn’t us. Right then I knew… I knew that my son was going to be heartbroken. The first place team was announced… it wasn’t us. I looked at my son’s face and my heart literally ached. As awards finished we hurried out to the car knowing he was holding it back as much as he could. The tears were welling up. As I hugged him I told him how proud I was of him for taking sixth at the state level. It was his dad’s weekend so he hopped in the car with him. I could feel his sadness as they pulled away. This is one of the times in my life that I hated my every other weekend arrangement. I wanted to take him home with me, hug him, tell him it was okay, eat ice cream out of the tub and watch movies that would make us laugh. I didn’t get to do that. Instead, I received text messages from him for about two hours telling me how sad and disappointed and even a little angry he was. I told him I loved him and to get some rest.
He and his sister came home the next evening. I was waiting for him with open arms and a small tub of “chocolate therapy” ice cream. In no way am I trying to teach him to eat his feelings away but sometimes ice cream really can fix anything. Joey always tells me “Money can’t buy happiness but it can buy ice cream and that’s basically the same thing.” We sat on the couch as both kids dug in with a spoon and laughed about what was on TV.
Joey is still disappointed but he’s coping. He’s already thinking about next year and what his team can do to prepare even more. I don’t know if he’ll be going to World’s in 2014 but I am sure he will one of these years. His determination and hard work will get him there. Until then…. He may have to deal with disappointment. How do you prepare your kids for disappointment?
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