Being a teenager is a pretty tumultuous time in a kid’s life. Besides all the hormones, social turmoil and school pressure, there’s a good amount of life lessons being doled out when our kids are standing on the cusp of adulthood. One of them? Sometimes everyone fails. Accept it, learn from it, and move on. Right?
Apparently, even though the student fumbled a few gymnastics moves and didn’t rank high enough to make the squad, and even though she’s not the only student who was disappointed when she didn’t make the cut, she thinks she’s got a case. Part of the reason for this is that other schools in the district ended up having their decisions overridden by the district itself when the kids who didn’t make the cut raised a similar stink.
And listen: No.
It is so, so disappointing to not make the football team or the cheer squad. It sucks when your name isn’t on the list for first chair in orchestra or lead role for the school play. It is a profoundly crappy feeling to learn that even though you did your best, someone else’s best was better, and now you’ve got to find something else to do. There is no denying that.
But there’s also no denying that the profoundly crappy feeling that accompanies that disappointment is a thing we all will deal with for the rest of our entire lives. The parts are interchangeable: cheer slots become college acceptance letters, and first chair violin becomes a promotion you were passed over for. There are a hundred ways to measure oneself and many more ways to come up short.
It’s valuable to sit in that discomfort and do what you will with it. You can work on improving yourself. You can move on to the next pursuit. You can hope to get it next time. What you can’t do is transfer all the issues you have with it to someone else.
Kids should learn that. It will serve them well in a little activity called “the rest of their earthly existence,” and we as parents do our children exactly zero favors by shielding them from that fact and helping them plug up their ears and shout “that’s not fair” at the people who make those decisions.
It’s so tempting to shield our kids from these unpleasant, uncomfortable experiences that leave them feeling bad, but it has to be done. Think of it as strengthening your child’s immunity to rejection and building up their capacity for persistence. Otherwise, there will come a day when you won’t be able to swoop in and save them, and the pain will be worse — not just because it’s fresh, but because they won’t have a way to deal with it.
If your kid doesn’t make the cheerleading team, the correct response is an encouraging word and a comforting hug, not a phone call to a lawyer and a campaign against their school district.
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