Patience recently went to the Best Birthday Party Evah.
This wasn't the uber cool Go Cart birthday party (although that one got my vote), the Chuck E Cheese birthday, the Jumping Jam birthday, or any of the others. It was an at-home birthday party, probably mainly with clever homemade crafts and snacks, if I know the mom (and I do).
When we got the invitation, Patience was beside herself with excitement. This was...unusual. Historically she has been rather ho hum about birthday parties.
I believe she was so excited because this is her Creative Imagination Animal Loving Science Friend. How many other little girls in the world will endlessly pretend to be a puppy, even magic markering whiskers and a nose on her face?
And this party was Dogs! Dogs! Dogs!
Patience was ecstatic. She came home with a goodie bag that had her hopping and speaking in rapidexcitedlittlegirl speak she was so thrilled. It had a REAL PRETEND doggie dish she could use! And the mom had made little cookies shaped JUST LIKE REAL PRETEND DOGGIE FOOD! It was in a bag JUST LIKE DOG FOOD! And she got a candy bone! And a mat for her doggie dish! And doggie ears!
Honestly, I was impressed.
She also came home with a prize she won for a "Pin the Bone in the Dog's Mouth" game they played. She apparently got the bone right in the mouth and WON a stuffed DOG!
This was an important distinction for her to make to us, "Everybody got a dog, Mom and Dad, but I was the real winner. I was the only one who got the bone in the right spot."
And that got me thinking.
My husband believes in competition. He thinks it motivates, asks us to reach a higher level. He's not a big believer in the "make everybody happy all the time" philosophy that is sweeping not just birthday parties but also kids' sports. He believes in winners.
I grew up with a "there are no winners" sort of philosophy. This is a euphemism for the "don't let it go to your head...you can always do better" parenting technique.
Patience has recently entered into a very competitive phase (or is it just a phase?). She is now developmentally capable of understanding place and status. It's a larger concept she's grasped, and includes time.
But it also includes winning and losing.
I've had to step back and ponder why this makes me so uncomfortable, why my instinct is to step in and "temper" her competitive instinct, especially if she's taking too much pride in winning.
I don't believe this is the correct thing. I think there is a middle ground, wherein I congratulate her, without comparisons or discussions of others and how they performed, and then move on instead of making it Such a Big Deal (unless that is called for, which sometimes it is...but not for a birthday party game).
But I'm still a little uncomfortable with all of the visions of "competing" I've seen in my children's world. There's
(a) hard, flat-out competing, with one winner and a bunch of losers
(b) the everybody always wins
(c) there's no winners or losers because we don't keep score
Perhaps like Patience, I am entering a new phase about competition. Prior to now, it just never concerned me. I'm sure it does now because she notices it, and is concerned about it.
My husband and I discussed this last night and a number of points all converged in my mind to form one question: are we the better for measuring ourselves against each other in a constant bid for place and status?
And my mind moved beyond just wondering about my daughter and her recent competitive bids. I began thinking about competition in life, generally.
I think competition can be a good thing. Feedback can help you grow, understanding how your skills measure up to another can help you decide a direction, and so forth. I do think some healthy competition can motivate us to strive to do our best. I prefer that to be chiefly and internal, self-motivation, but some external motivation can be healthy too.
But what about people who are already at the top of their game? At some point, do compeitions and awards degenerate simply into popularity and self-congratulatory behavior?
I think it started with Piglet of Fire's interesting post in which he wrote, "Does anyone pat themselves on the back more than the entertainment industry? I was starting to go through withdrawal, because more than 2 weeks had elapsed since the entertainment industry had an award night for itself."
I laughed and agreed.
But then I paused and pondered the question.
I think there is a group competing with the entertainment industry for more pats on the back. I think it is bloggers.
I don't go more than a week without seeing this award or that award, campaigning for votes, etc.
I'm losing my appreciation for it.
I did wonder whether this was sour grapes on my part. I'll be honest. I don't think it is.
I'm as pleased (maybe more so) as the next person when I get a nice little nod of appreciation. I proudly display my two perfect post awards on my sidebar, near the top no less. That's superego friends.
One time I even asked a person to send in a post if they thought it was funny. I regretted the request as soon as I made it, but I didn't alter my words (as much as I wanted to). Why, then, did I ask? Because I felt like I was supposed to. I felt like I was supposed to market myself. I feel this obligation to not let people down and be the best they think I can be.
The truth is, I just want to write my little blog how I want to and use it to process through a variety of topics. That's ego.
I don't want to stand side-by-side with others, especially others I really like and ask people to choose who is best. It's pretty arbitrary usually, anyway.
So why am I okay with awards like the perfect post and ROFL? Why do I think the Just Posts are the greatest thing ever?
Because everyone is a winner in those awards. All you have to do is say, "This post is great, this post was funny, this post made me consider how to add value to the world." and BINGO. Winner. With the Just Posts, you can even send your own post in, and there's simply link love for great posts.
It's not about "this post or this blogger is better than the rest" it's about "hey I noticed this post and it moved me, motivated me and I want to share it."
I realize the popularity contests are all meant for fun and to do good, just like the ones in hgh school.
But I won't go vote, even though some of my absolute favorite bloggers are frequently nominated. Even though I think these people deserve positive recognition. I think the best positive recognition is the high traffic to a blog and the large number of comments. What better way to know that your words hold meaning and are reaching your audience?
I simply can't choose among great blogges, all of whom I like, in different ways on different days.
And I'm not sure why I need to.
Awards are awfully nice to get nominated for and to win...but to what end, I wonder. What value do they add?
So let me ask you: are we the better for measuring ourselves against each other in a constant bid for place and status?
copyright 2007 Julie Pippert