This post was originally published on January 22, 2018 and updated on October 8, 2019.
As my son came off the ice yesterday following his hockey game, he looked at Mark and me, shrugged up one shoulder a bit and gave a, “meh, what are you gonna do?” expression.
They’d lost another game - they've had plenty of experience losing this season, which has been hard on the team’s morale.
Except for my child’s.
He still comes off the ice with a smile.
It drives Mark insane.
“It would be nice if he was just a little more competitive,” he’ll say.
A balance between being competitive and having a positive attitude would be nice, I agree.
Our older son used to play soccer and after a loss, - like most kids when their team loses a game - he would throw himself across the back seat of the car, devastated to the point of nearly needing psychiatric care.
We would tell him how he needed to pull himself together, and that losing is part of life, and that he needed to be a better loser.
I thought about this last time we had the “he should be a little more competitive” conversation about our youngest. We seem to want what we don’t have, because if he were working himself into a lather, we would be telling him that losing is part of life, and that he needs to be a better sport.
“So we should be happy that he’s a good loser,” Mark says, raising his eyebrows.
He wanted me to say, no, that’s not what I meant.
But yes, that’s what I meant. (One of the things that keeps this marriage alive is my keen ability to reply in unexpected ways to this man, who is foolish enough to think he's two steps ahead of me, but he can't possibly know which way my mind is headed.)
Look, this child is not going to be an NHL player.
And it’s not because he doesn’t have a deep love for the game, because he does. He tells me all the time that the ice is his happy place.
Our youngest plays hockey because he just has fun doing it. He likes to challenge himself a bit - not big challenges - nothing that’s too hard.
He’s just not a “dig your heels in” kind of kid. Neither of my children are.
Some of us parents were talking about this at the rink yesterday, and one of the parents said that it’s actually great that my son is a good loser.
“Being able to gracefully lose builds winners. To be able to get knocked down again and again and keep getting back up helps make us stronger.”
It’s true, although my child doesn’t recognize that he’s “getting knocked down,” even though his team is winning at losing.
But if he were coming unglued after losses, what would we say to him? How would we use that as a teaching moment? (This is another thing to file under the Makes Mark Nuts tab: how I see all different sides of things and verbally play it out from a variety of perspectives.)
Like in this instance, where instead of being irritated that our kid isn’t upset over game losses, I look at the “what if he were” side of things.
What if he banged his stick on the ice after the final game buzzer signaled another lopsided score in the opponents’ favor? What if he cried all the way from the locker room to the car, exhausted and depleted of energy and all semblance of sportsmanship? What if he straight up lost his shit every time they lost a game?
What would we say?
We would tell him to pull himself together.
We would tell him he needs to have a more positive attitude.
We would tell him that losing is all part of life.
We would tell him that he needs to be a better loser.