‘I quit!’

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So many times I have uttered these two words and wanted to stand behind them. Whether it was on a home improvement project gone seriously wrong (all you DIYers know what I’m talking about) or while writing a story where the blank page stared back at me, I have longed for the guilt-free conscience needed to abandon all obstacles and just walk away from a challenge.

But, alas, I am not a quitter. And even though in my adult life — and as a parent — I have stood on the edge of failure many times, I rarely back down. My competitive side won’t allow it. And so painfully, I persevere — win or lose.

It is true that winning isn’t everything — but personally, I hate to lose. That spirit of competition keeps me in the game, and good or bad, I’ve passed a little of my crazy competitive nature on to our son. It is evident in every “at bat” during Little League season and every family board game night at home.

Crawford is different from me. I think he often wants to quit just to avoid losing and he might have given up, more often than not, if my husband and I weren’t there to push him along when he struck out or when he drew the “Go to Jail. Do not pass Go.” card for the umpteenth time.

Why? Because “sticking to it” is hard, especially when things are not going well. Sure, perseverance is easy when everything is working out fine — but when faced with repeated failure, staying in the game is a tough decision. Commitment is one of life’s hard lessons to learn.

My dad taught me about commitment long ago and the lesson continues. He fondly reminds me of the day I was playing a high school tennis tournament. Down 1-6 in the first set and 2-5 in the second, the match was solidly in the hands of the opponents. My partner and I were feeling dejected and hopeless, and easily could’ve given up. But somehow we rallied, overcoming our decided disadvantage to a surprising victory 1-6, 7-5, 6-4. Later in my life, Dad sent me a framed picture of that day on the courts with these words written in red, “Never, ever, ever, ever, EVER give up!”

Winning is a state of mind — power of positive thinking driven by a competitive spirit, and it can work wonders. For our family, “winning” is learning to stay in the game — with encouragement instead of sideline critiques — and to discover the value of perseverance and commitment, both winning character traits.
Is the “never give up” philosophy good for all kids?

I think so, but I’m just one mom. In our focus on sports, Dr. Robyn Silverman advises parents to teach commitment, but investigate the reasons a child wants to quit. She offers tips to help determine if your child is simply looking for an easy out of this week’s practice or if he really doesn’t enjoy an activity — if it’s time to hang up the towel. And though I don’t believe quitting is the answer, the intense focus on winning in kids’ sports might send a dangerous message. Steroid use is on the rise (perhaps in an attempt to win at all costs) and Jacqueline Bodnar covers this serious subject, helping parents spot the signs of abuse before it’s too late.

I admit it. As a sports fan with a competitive edge, I often get caught up in keeping score, putting unnecessary emphasis on being the best. But in my heart, I know it is more important to teach Crawford (and myself) to keep showing up, having fun and staying in the game.

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus once said, “Resolve never to quit, never to give up, no matter what the situation.” Good advice. Sounds a lot like the words of my dad.
To all those Dads out there keeping their kids in the game . . .
Happy Father’s Day!

Eve