Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Concept of Losing

At what point in our lives do we understand the concept of losing? At what age do we realize that there's actually pain in losing?

When my son was younger, he cried a lot whenever he lost a game. In playing Monopoly with him, I'd usually get the higher bills everytime he needed to pay me or the bank. This way, he wouldn't feel that he's losing based on the number of 1-dollar bills that he's still holding. Eventually, of course, all his 1-dollar bill will be used up. Expect World War III to start by then.

Whenever my son goes into his tantrums, my Mom would usually say, "Hay, naku! Nag-mana sa Mommy n'ya!" Hehehe! At first, we manipulated the game so he can end up the winner, just like what they did to me when I was younger. But really, that's not the way to raise a child.

Little by little, I tried to make him understand that not everybody end up as winners. Losers gain a lot, too. Whether we end up as winners or losers is not what's important, how we played the game and how we gave our best are the things that matter.

When Francis first joined a taekwondo tournament, I silently objected to it. Not only was I a swimming advocate, but I felt he was still too much of a baby for such type of competition. But he insisted, and I could really see in his eyes how genuinely he wants to join the tournament.

He lost his first tournament. I don't even think he understood what the whole tournament was all about at that time when he had a fight. We left the venue immediately after his fight and watched "Batman," which he had been longing to see for several weeks at that time. We also went to Tagaytay and spent the rest of the afternoon for a much-needed bonding moment. At the end of the day, I honestly think he has forgotten all about the tournament he just had and the fact that he lost.

Yesterday, my son joined his second tournament. I still didn't want him to join any tournament as I feel his kicks still lack strength. But as usual, he insisted. Not that I often give in to his wishes, but I also cannot think of any reasons why I should prevent him from joining one. Win or lose, I think he will benefit from it both ways.

I try not to be the kind of parent who shout their hearts out whenever their children are playing or performing. I'm the quiet one. My son gets easily distracted so I just spent the entire time watching the game through my camera lens.

Like any other parent, I also wished for my son to win. Or at least, move on to the next elimination round. But his opponent was far more advanced. Despite being a yellow-belter, he was used to doing headshots (well, that's what I heard other parents say).

I wanted to close my eyes everytime my son receives a kick on his face. But I also don't want to stop taking shots as I might miss a good kick from my him. In fairness, his taekwondo skills have improved. There's more effort in kicking his opponent instead of simply throwing his legs aimlessly, as in his first tournament.

But headshots are two points each. My son lost.

From where I sat, I could see his coach talking to him, and my son drinking water. Is he scolding my son? Is he consoling my son? Is my son crying? I'm too far away to know.

My son gathered up his stuff and went straight to our seats. Still several meters away, I could see how hard he was trying to pull back his tears. But when he saw me, he walked faster, then ran towards me, embraced me and cried.

Have you ever had that experience? I did. And the most recent one was just a year ago when my friends and I climed down from an unsuccessful attempt to reach the summit of Mount Kinabalu. I had no trouble climbing up, but the climbing down was extremely difficult for me. To make the long story short, when I reached Timpohon Gate and saw my friends, all the tears I held back came out in one surge. I knew my time of pretending to be strong was up, I can now be myself with them.

My son had the same moment. He knew he could just let go right there in my arms. It took several minutes before he stopped crying. Thank Heavens for PSPs, they make problems go away in a snap.

After a while though, I asked my son why he cried. But everytime he starts to say something, his eyes get watery so he goes back to playing his PSP. I offered reasons on why he cried, but he kept silent. Until I asked him if it was about my brother's promise of a Micro Game Boy should he win his fight. Ayun, he started crying again.

When we left the stadium for lunch, I asked again why he cried, not fully satisfied with the Game Boy Micro reason. He softly said, "natalo kasi ako, nahihiya ako."

I wanted to console my son with kind, comforting and encouraging words, but I, too, had a lump in my throat. I remembered Ate Faye's blog entry: "It pains me to realize that I had no control over things, over her. No control at all." As much as I want to protect my son from everything else that might hurt him, I simply can't. More than the physical pain he must have experienced during the fight, how can you ease his emotional pain?

We spent the rest of the day roaming around MOA, capped with the fireworks display at night, which Francis was looking forward to all afternoon. Somehow, it feels different this time. My son was happy with the fireworks display, but I also knew that he still feels disappointed from losing his game.

"And as a mom, I just watch like a hawk and go to her when she needs me... I need to let her fight her own battles, it's not at easy as it seems." -- Still from Ate Faye's Mommy Randoms blog entry.

Mommy: Francis, wala kang taekwondo practice sa Tuesday and Thursday kasi exams ha, sabi ng coach mo.
Francis: Ok.
Mommy: Sa Saturday na daw, aattend ka ba?
Francis: Opo.
Mommy: Ayaw mong mag-absent?
Francis: (nods his head)
Mommy: Sasali ka pa ba sa tournament? (with a tone of sarcasm)
Francis: Opo.
Mommy: Pa rin?
Francis: Opo. Sabi ni coach, tama daw 'yung ginawa ko (pertaining to the talk he and his coach had after his fight). Sa November, may tournament daw uli.
Mommy: Ha? Sasali ka pa rin dun? (naka-recover na kaya sya nun?)
Francis: Oo. (with a matter-of-fact tone... and take note, hindi na sya "opo").

Postscript #2
I referred to events that happened yesterday, but the tournament was really last Saturday pa. I just couldn't get myself to write about this without having a lump stuck in my throat and a tear forming at the corner of my eye.


faye said...

Hihi, kilig naman ako at talagang properly cited ako, haha. Nakakalerky, db? It's even harder for us kasi hinaharap natin itong mag-isa and we can't afford to let down our defenses even for just a bit kasi tayo lang at ang anak natin.

Kaya nga we just have to learn to let go and let God kasi at least Sya may control over things. :)

byahengbarok said...

ayan na naman... naiiyak na naman ako! :(

Manuel said...

We sometimes need to feel the bitterness of defeat, so that when we win we can relish in the sweetness of victory and know for a fact that we have earned it through hardwork and determination.

byahengbarok said...

perfect! agree ako dyan!