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I couldn't be prouder of my daughter's first real trophy

I started blogging in 2013 to share some stories about my funny kids and their goofy dad. During that time, I realized how important gender issues are in raising children.

It's possible I'm more excited than I should be about Penny's first merit-based trophy. Don't get me wrong, at a certain age, everyone should get to play and get a participation award. And anyone, at any age, who runs a marathon sure as hell deserves a medal at the end.

There are certain activities that deserve a reward, because just finishing is a major accomplishment. But there is something about actually winning, being held up as a shining example, that is special. I will not apologize for the fact that I am fiercely proud of my little girl and her tiny trophy.

And I kind of love that the trophy is for something athletic.

I know that my daughter is smart. She takes after her mother and is quickly developing a voracious love of reading. Both my wife and I read a ton to her, but Allie deserves all the credit for teaching her how to do it on her own. And once that skill started clicking, Penny found joy in it. She is also really into science. We don't know where she gets that from (certainly not us) but we plan on fueling that fire. It's so important and can lead down so many interesting paths. But this, her first award, was for athletics.

Allie and I went to Penny's school, not knowing what to expect. I didn't get many details from Coach T., her gym and soccer coach, when he called me the day before to invite us to the award ceremony. I figured a host of trophies and medals would be given out to a number of students in her class; maybe everyone would get something, so no one would feel bad. Nope. Just the one award for one boy and one girl (my girl!) in Kindergarten (there are five classes with around 25 students per class, so she was facing some stiff competition).

Coach T. explained to the gathered students, teachers and two sets of parents that the student-athlete award was for the two Kindergartners who demonstrated honesty, integrity, perseverance and ability. I didn't think I could have smiled more widely than when he told an anecdote about Penny. She takes soccer after school and prefers to be goalkeeper. At the start of a playoff game, one of the boys saw that she was headed to the net and said "oh no, Penny's in goal!" That's right: they fear her! My sweet little girl makes them want to throw in the towel. "Suck it!" is what I'd say if I wasn't a super mature person who didn't let his sometimes too-competitive nature out on occasion. Sorry, honey.

But that wasn't the best part. That wasn't the thing that made me smile the widest, or at least not the longest. Coach T. spent a good portion of his introduction of the award talking about perseverance. I've seen Penny get frustrated and want to give up. Sometimes she gets way too frustrated way too quickly, but she does usually hang in there. (Allie may disagree with me on this assessment when it came to learning to read.) I try to keep her calm and make it easier for her to solve whatever issue she's having, and she usually gets it eventually (after the initial freak-out has subsided when she starts breathing again). I love that this award emphasized the obvious truth that no one is going to be a natural at everything they try. This was not, however, a participation trophy, rewarding everyone who was out there no matter what. This award recognized something specific about Penny, a no-quit attitude that is instrumental in accomplishing something that, for a time, seemed impossible. In other words, the things we do that we are the most proud of.

Evidence suggests that "bright girls" are particularly susceptible to giving up before they've really gotten going. I admit that this is a totally biased opinion, but my girl definitely is a "bright girl." I don't want her to fall into the usual trap. Apparently, intellectual girls "believe their abilities are innate and unchangeable." If they don't get something right away, they quickly "doubt their ability... lose confidence and... become less effective learners as a result." It is vital that we, as parents, educators and coaches, laud our girls for dusting their butts off after they've been knocked down, or tripped over their own shoelaces, and continue trying to score. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

I'm always going to be proud of my daughter and I want her to enjoy whatever successes she has. Her mom and I will enjoy them right alongside her. But she has to know that each big success represents a thousand tiny failures that she worked through, and that working through those failures was the most important part of her journey. Trophies and awards are great reminders of everything leading up to achieving a goal and definitely something to be proud of.

Image: Brad.K/Flickr
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