Over the weekend, I went to my daughter's soccer game. The other team didn't show up, so it was decided that the parents and siblings would form a team to play against the girls.
The season hadn't been going well for my daughter's team (in terms of wins and losses, that is). In fact, they hadn't come close to winning a single game, and one of the moms was very concerned about the effect this might be having on the girls' self esteem. As the scrimmage began, she stated firmly, "The whole purpose of this game is so the girls can win. It is of critical importance that they experience a success." Hmmm, I wondered. How does she know that?
What did the mom imagine would happen if they didn't experience success on this team? Would the girls quit soccer altogether and seek out something easier that would guarantee success? Would they become so dejected that they'd flunk out of school and start smoking cigarettes and shoplifting? And what if the parent and sibling team let them win because they thought the girls were too fragile to experience another loss? What would that do to their self esteem?
For me, one of the most interesting aspects of life is how often things don't turn out as we were expecting them to. "A" doesn't always lead to "B." Like how big lottery winners stereotypically end up lonely and miserable, and how cancer survivors so often become filled with gratitude and a higher sense of purpose. Or how bullies turn out to be the weak ones, while "nerds" tend to grow up to be successful.
Let's face it, we humans are wrong a lot of the time, and I believe this is all by design. We came to this crazy little planet to make mistakes and to learn hard lessons. We're a tough breed, to be sure. This is not a place for the faint-hearted, and we knew that when we signed up for it.
Did you ever read the great 1960's children's book, Fortunately, by Remy Charlip? It's about a boy named Ned who, fortunately, was invited to an awesome surprise birthday party in another state. Unfortunately, getting to the party turned out to be a huge ordeal. It had many, many ups and downs, including Ned's airplane exploding, his parachute being defective, etc. Fortunately, in the end, Ned makes it to the party in one piece, and the gala event turns out to be worth the series of unfortunate events that led up to it.
Life is sort of like that, isn't it? The struggles we go through help us become the strong, compassionate people we would not have become if we had "experienced success" in everything we did. Sometimes life knows better than us what we need, or what our children need. How do I know that? (Good question!)