of winning and losing

Dear Ethan and Carmen,

My lovebugs, I am constantly scolded that the world is not going to cater to our everyone gets a trophy familial mindset. I understand that. Perhaps the one perk to early puberty were all of the years I got to fake menstrual cramps to avoid gym class or field day or any activity that required showcasing my athletic (in)ability against that of girls who were taught to be winners. For as long as your father and I can raise you and guide you and protect you from the ills of a society that we disagree with often, we will let everyone get a trophy for trying. Trying takes courage, which I learned the hard way.

But more than anything, babies, please believe that winning doesn't matter. You don't have to win. You don't have to be top of your class. You don't need to make your bodies weak and sick and dull from all-night study sessions. You don't have to come in first place or even tenth place. You don't need to win. You don't need to be the best. You don't need to be popular. You don't need to strive to be better, stronger, faster. None of it. Take it all up in your mind and toss it far, far away.

Be true to your heart. Take classes that you enjoy because you enjoy them. Enroll in enrichment activities that make your body and mind fulfilled, even if you're the only one in the class who can't master that yoga move or grasp that artistic skill. Enjoy it all. Enjoy everything you do. Soak up the pleasures of being young, of being children, of being teenagers, of being young adults put into this world to learn and grow and be and do. Listen to music you enjoy, even if everyone thinks it's weird. Let the sunlight warm your skin and the fresh air flow through your lungs because you, children, are allowed to not be burdened by expectations to perform on tests or assessments.

You are just children and I am surrounded so often by mothers craving more for their children: more homework. More testing. More assessments. More grades. More structure. More. More. More. And slowly I shirk away with whispers of less, less, less. Less of the things that don't matter. More living. More loving. More being the incredible people that you are. If an assessment test decides you are average, know two things: there is no shame in being average and also you are the farthest thing from average. You cannot be defined by a performance on a test or by your ability to memorize mathematical equations that you will never see in your adult life. You are defined by your kindness, by your warmth, by your gentleness, by the way you exist in the world around you. You will hear from many that those things don't matter, but listen closely, lovebugs: nothing matters more.

It is a cutthroat world. You will often be picked up and placed on a hypothetical race track and expected to run, sprint, leap; expected to out perform your peers and be the best. Be the fastest. Be the strongest. Be the smartest. Be the one who pole vaults their way onto an accelerated education and takes the fast track to Ivy League colleges.

But listen to me, babies: when you stay true to yourself, you've already won.

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