The Joy in Coming Second Last

In an increasingly competitive world, I worry about the intense pressure on our kids to succeed.

While many kids are shuffled off to extra curricula tutoring, I try my hardest to buck that trend, to let my kids be kids. I want them to muck around outside, jump on the trampoline, kick a soccer ball. But it occurred to me recently that maybe I need to instil a little more competitive spirit in my daughters.

When my eldest daughter competed in her school cross-country carnival, she was running like a rabbit with a greyhound at her heels. Then she turned her head and noticed that she was way ahead of her friend. She stopped so her friend could catch up. They walked to the finish line together, chatting away as though they were out for a leisurely Sunday stroll.

When that same daughter ran the 80-metre sprint at her sports carnival, she walked up to me afterwards with a proud smile. “Mummy, I got a ribbon!” The ribbon she waved in her hand read “Competitor”. She had come second last in the race. She didn’t care; she had a ribbon.

When my youngest daughter ran the 80-metre sprint at the carnival, her shoe fell off half way down the track. “Keep running,” I yelled. She stopped, turned around, picked up her shoe, balanced on one leg as she shoved her sneaker back on, and walked to the finish line with a huge smile on her face. “My shoe fell off,” she laughed. It didn’t help that she’d worn her older sister’s runners to the carnival, which were two sizes too big.

My girls clearly have no competitive bones in their body. Maybe I should become one of those parents who shuffle their kids off to tutoring on a Saturday. Then again, maybe not. Their smiles are better than good grades. Their joy is better than coming first place. According to my daughter, there’s a lot of joy in coming second last.

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One thought on “The Joy in Coming Second Last

  1. Loved this article Sarah! In Asia it can be so challenging not to join the rat race of the tiger mums, well done to you for just keeping them kids as long as possible! X

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