The surprisingly excellent USA team has gone home in tears. And England’s stiff upper lip is drooping badly this morning after Sunday’s ‘humiliation’. At the corner store, I heard delivery men in solemn discussion – “He couldn’t make it today… you know, in light of what happened…”
“Awww mate… bring him over to my place later.”
Even the primary school across the road is subdued. I don’t even want to think about the secondary school my older boy attends. On Wednesday, every single student there was clandestinely watching the England match: on iPhones, projected on smartboards in labs, under desks, on every computer monitor in every classroom. When England scored, the school exploded with joy and the headmaster was seen swooping from room to room to tear a strip off of guilty professors and jubilant boys. Their Wednesday win made Sunday’s trouncing only harder to bear.
French President Sarkozy holds the French loss to be an insult to his nation’s honour (quelle horreur!) and an inquest begins shortly into the English team’s disastrous failure to get a grip. Was it the Italian manager’s fault? The referees, for their bad calls? The players themselves? Newspapers scream of “Gratzie and Arrivederci!” and “…a foetid pool of disillusion and dismay!” and “Urgent Inquest…” and “…decide whether to back him or sack him…”
Sporting upsets like this can be a great springboard for a parenting moment. Apart from the obvious “You were watching in the chemistry lab WHILE doing a sensitive experiment, are you mad,” learning to lose is a skill that we are not born with and it does need to be taught. Practiced, even!
The newspaper headlines remind me of the parents who climb onto the field at kids’ sporting events, to give umpires and coaches a piece of their minds. Little Jimmy was SAFE! Ref, it’s not FAIR! Surely Frankie WON the ball-and-spoon race, the ball fell OVER the LINE! It’s not FAIR! And the kids pick up the cry: “I SHOULD have won, but she elbowed me and the teacher didn’t see!”
These moments are wonderful opportunities for us to teach our kids that it’s not always fair, that sometimes, at the last minute, we make a mistake. Maybe the coach made a bad team decision. Maybe the referee had the sun in his eye. Perhaps we, despite training and trying and wanting and pushing our hardest, fell over our shoelaces and came in last just in the crucial race.
Oh, it’s hard, I know! I remember the year that Sam was going to win the ball-and-spoon race. I was instructed to buy golf balls, and Sam spent weeks practicing. He brushed his teeth, got dressed and read books with the ball-and-spoon attached to his arm until it seemed impossible that he would ever drop it. He could toss that ball into the air and catch it effortlessly on the wooden spoon. He was the hope and dream of his House Team.
On sports day, leagues ahead of the pack, he approached the finish line and…
Dropped the ball.
How I longed to rush over there and say that the ball was over the line! How I wanted to buy him a gold medal of his own, because he deserved it! How hard it was for me, to wait for him to come over, give him a hug and say “Oh Sam, I’m so sorry!” and let it go.
Of course, he was upset. But he was allowed to accept that sometimes, disaster strikes. And hopefully, the experience will help him to be a good sportsman, and to deal with life’s other upsets… like his beloved team playing the worst English Soccer ever in World Cup history.
Flags are coming down all over the nation today as we begin to get a grip, and new ones are going up: Argentina! Germany! Brazil! Because life does go on, and we can’t be sunk into a pit of despair for long, with so much excellent soccer on!
by Nan Sheppard
Photo graciously provided by Chris Devers, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved