Saturday, 13 August 2011

Tomatoes, Tears and Victories

Yesterday will be circled in my calendar for two small, but important, parenting victories.

Last week was football club week. Unbeknown to the boys, they are learning far more than football when they attend these clubs. Whilst the competition is extreme and exciting, the coaches also look out for good teamwork, good attitude, obedience and co-operation. Encouragement of others in the team is prized. At the end of the week, Toby won the award for sportsmanship. Although he was not the most skilled of football players, he was a boost to his team and he even overcame the disappointment of defeat by applauding others. For those of you who don't know, Toby is highly competitive. He is not the type to lie back and allow someone else to win.

Watching him collect his prize, my mind wandered back to Toby at age 4 and 5. I remembered the hours I spent with him playing games. The temptation to just 'let him win' so that he wouldn't be upset was great, but I resisted it and we had many games where the playing cards, or dice, were thrown down on the floor as he stomped, tears flowing, out of the room in defeat. He hated losing. I began to teach him to stay in the room, shake my hand and say well done to the winner. This felt like rubbing salt into his raw wounds of failure, but I knew that I had to teach him to be a good loser. I explained to him how it felt to not be congratulated. I told him that how he played the game was more important than who won. It was painful and there were many tears.

Yesterday, as he picked up his award, I knew I could tick that one off his list of preparation for life. He is ready to face competition and be beaten. He realises that character is more important than winning (although winning is, of course, still preferable!).

My second small victory almost caused me to leap around the room in excitement. Unfortunately I had to play it down. Tomatoes and Jonah have not mixed well. For two years, I have been putting a small amount of tomato on his plate at meal times (not every meal time, just the meals that have included the dreaded fruit). For two years, Jonah has methodically removed the tomato and put it on the table next to his plate. I have not made a big deal of it, I have just continued to put it on his plate. I have always refused to give different foods to different children. We all have the same thing on our plates. Yesterday, out of the blue, he said "I'm going to try this tomato, today". My mouth almost dropped onto the floor in shock. I held myself together and tried not to watch him as he tentatively put it in his mouth. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the tomato chewed up and swallowed. "Mmmmm," he said, "I like tomatoes now!" Toby and Max gave him a cheer and we continued with the rest of our meal. I, however, had that wonderful feeling of winning a small victory. It warmed me from the inside and it took all my self control to keep it inside instead of dancing around the room singing "I won the tomato battle, I won the tomato battle!"

Bringing up children is full of these small triumphs. Small, but far reaching. Did I ever believe, in all those months of Toby tearfully shaking my hand and saying 'well done', that he would win a prize for it one day? Definitely not. I had almost given up on the tomato battle too. We have to persevere even when it looks bleak. The triumphs are not for our own benefit (although it does feel good), they are for the benefit of our children, their future families and their lives ahead.

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