The three times a week my little guy has preschool; his oldest brother is also with us for drop-off. I barely have my mom-mobile in park before my eldest unbuckles himself and his brother. He smiles at him and says, “Are you ready, buddy? I’ve got your backpack!” Then he opens the van door and says, “Only a 5-second head-start today!” The newly released child nods, hops down and takes off in a sprint towards the school doors, arms pumping with determination. Somehow, it always ends in a tie.
There’s a reason that every race between them is a tie. It’s also why Risk isn’t a great family game (yet) and why there are no scorekeepers at pre-k soccer games (although mine keeps track in his head anyway). No one likes to lose. Our hearts and our resolve feel the constricting squeeze of failure.
This past fall, my favorite four-year-old’s soccer team had a game where they got pummeled by a much more aggressive and able-bodied bunch. Being one of the more assertive ones on our team, my little competitor kept working at it. Running down the ball only to have them steal it back and go score. He held it together, but after the opponents made the score 8-0, he buried his red little face in his hands – big sobs escaping. (Again, no scoreboard, but he knew exactly how many balls entered that goal.)
I hugged him hard and just said, “Some games are like this, buddy. I know it doesn’t feel good.”
He gazed up all sloppy-faced, with discouragement in his eyes, “Mom – I am trying SO hard …” He didn’t need to finish his thought. I heard the echo in his silence: “…but it’s not making a difference.”
Losing doesn’t feel good, but it is a part of life – an important skill to learn. For me, it’s not about soccer games, board games or races. My list may appear more “adult” but it still leaves me as sheepish and frustrated as a child.
I constantly lose my glasses. I use them daily, but mainly for reading so I set them down…well, everywhere! I lose track of my kids’ things…regularly. Three schools, four kids and four schedules. “Picture day was today?” “When is that presentation happening again?” I lose my patience and anger flares instead. “You still don’t have socks on? I sent you upstairs a half-hour ago!” I sometimes feel like I lose myself in this fabulous mess called motherhood. “How do I make time for me and not feel selfish?”
Unless the words “unwanted weight” are after the word “losing,” it has a pretty negative connotation. But could losing also be a good thing? Could we make what is often only a negative, into a positive? Could we thoughtfully make a trade and choose the things that we lose?
From now on, I am resolving to lose at things that matter:
I am going to lose my fears and inhibitions – the things that hold me back from moving forward.
I will work to lose my need to compare with others in order to evaluate myself.
I will strive to lose my negative thoughts about my abilities and myself and replace them with kindness and truth.
I resolve to lose my close relationship to “what-if” and move on to build a healthy relationship with “what-could-be.”
I will lose the self-shaming that comes with perfectionism and instead embrace self-forgiveness, realizing I am a legitimate work-in-progress.
I want to be a loser of stress, not a loser of sleep, a loser of unrealistic expectations, not a loser of patience. I know I’ll still need to make apologies for lost tempers and searching for my glasses may be an ongoing saga. But if I am going to lose, I want to lose big on the right things, and in the right way. By being “losers” of these things that shackle us, we free up space for growth and are presented with an opportunity to rewrite how the future is going to unfold.