My daughter was born 4 years ago. Her first summer was spent rolling around on the floor as her mama cheered on Team USA in the London Olympics. She was a perfect baby, tall and lean. My husband and I joked every night about whether she would be an Olympic Volleyball star or a center fielder on the Softball Team.
My husband and I grew up playing team sports. In fact, my volleyball serve will still make some men get nervous. We of course dreamed of our athletic children. I even considered (if only slightly jokingly) “red shirting” kindergarten so that she could be a littler bigger.
At age 4, she was old enough to play her first team sport. In Howard/Suamico, I was ecstatic to find they actually have girls softball tee ball. She would learn softball from the start, instead of starting with baseball, like I had. My heart sank a little when I read the website and she missed the cutoff by 14 days. I laid down the money and signed her up anyway. What’s the worst that could happen? They’d send me my money back?
They let her play. She got her glove as a birthday present the day before her first practice. If you’ve never experienced 4-6 year old girls playing tee ball, let me explain. My daughter did play something that resembled softball. But there are no outs. Every girl gets to bat. Every girl swings as many times as needed to get a hit. And every time there’s a hit, the girls are instructed to throw the ball to first base.
My “spirited” 4 year old did as much dancing, singing, playing with chalk and twirling as she did throwing or hitting. It was funny, and, to be honest, a little bit frustrating to watch.
Then, at the last game of the year, they presented her with a trophy.
What? A trophy? I had heard rumors of the “participation” trophy. As a child of the 80s, these things did not exist. I cringed. What could I do? Tell her she couldn’t have it? Explain to her that she really didn’t “win”? No, I smiled. Let her have her moment.
My DNA contains the competitive gene. I wish I could have just let it go. But the next day, as she poured water into her little trophy and took shots of happiness, I asked her why she got a trophy. She smiled and said “because I took first place and won the game!” Hmm. Interesting. Had she not noticed no score had been kept all season? I asked her who she beat. She beamed, “Everyone else!” Funny, because at the same time she was getting her trophy, so was the other team.
I understood in that moment that she had absolutely no clue the rules of softball. The fact that everyone participating received a trophy did not dull the shine on hers. But I also realized that her joy of softball had been made a little deeper by receiving this lovely little painted ceramic lie.
I’m still not ready to embrace trophies for all, but the fact that she asked to play again next year makes this mom’s heart happy.