Friday Collections

March 9, 2012


Image by Renault Futterer

Last weekend Leah went to her first Tae Kwon Do tournament. She had been looking forward to it for weeks and spent hours in class getting ready for it. Not knowing what to expect, she was a little nervous, but was comfortable in her skills and abilities – for months she has been told how well she is doing, each belt test came with accolades and a new color to wear.

In fact, come to think of it, Leah has been pretty successful in life in general. There hasn’t been much she hasn’t gotten – not from privilege, but just from talent or effort or even luck. She’s the kid that actually WINS the stuffed animal from those “put a quarter in and make the claw grab it” machines. It’s extraordinary.

Until now.

“Honorable Mention”

Honorable Mention at this tournament is equivalent to “Thank you for playing.”

Not that she didn’t put out any effort – she did. But there were others that were just a bit more precise or sharp, just a bit louder in the “kee-YAHs!” and a boy who was more aggressive in sparring. And so: Honorable Mention.

To say she was disappointed doesn’t really touch it. She was sad – and PISSED. There is just no other way to say that. She wanted to throw the medal away, but I stopped her – cold.


“I don’t like this medal and I want to throw it away.”

“No. You keep that medal. It’s the first of the two most important medals you will every win.”

“What?! Why? This isn’t important – I LOST.”

“Right. You like how this feels?”


“Good. Want to work harder to show ’em you can win?”


“Good. Remember this feeling – and every time you feel like blowing something off and not working hard, remember what it feels like to lose something you really wanted.”


“And take the medal and hang it where you can see it. Every time you look at it you’ll remind yourself you don’t like it. This is the medal that taught you to work hard, that nothing comes easily – even if you have talent. It’s the first of two bookends that you will cherish in your life.”

“Well, what’s the other one then? ‘Cause I don’t like this one.”

“The second one is the medal you win BECAUSE you worked your butt off – the one that really let’s you understand what it means to win. And that one? That one feels AMAZING. But remember, there is still honor in Honorable Mention. You had the courage to show up to fight and compete. Many of the kids in your class did not. Be proud of that – be proud of showing up – because we are very, very proud of you for that.”


And so, she’s working harder and with more focus than I’ve seen her use this year. This lesson has even started to translate into her school – a little. Natural consequences are, themselves, a fine teacher — even if it’s hard as a parent to let them happen.

If she’s anything like her parents, the combination of this and her little competitive gene kicking in means she’ll figure this lesson out just fine. Like her mom, she is not a fan of “no”.

But none of should be, right?

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4 Responses to “Friday Collections”

  1. Teri Wathen Says:

    omg, Pam, what an awesome parent/teacher you are for making this a “teachable moment”. I applaud you!!

  2. Amy Burgess Says:

    Great parenting!