Built to Last

Today my oldest daughter (age 7) participated in her first sparring tournament. She’s been in karate for a few years now, but has never done this kind of tournament before, and she was very excited. In her bracket, she came in dead last.

I was so, so proud of her!

She fought like a champ. She got more points in every progressive round, so she improved every time. She absolutely never showed a hint of being disheartened or doing anything less than her best. She congratulated every other kid that beat her like she was cheering for a best friend, even the ones she’d never met before today. And when it was over, she bounced around grinning from ear to ear about how much fun she’d had.

We absolutely talked about what she can do better – she was quite realistic about her performance, but not negative. She had clear ideas about what to improve and how to practice. She focused on the positive aspects too, like how she did win her last round once she found her “zone.” She also noted that this was her first tournament, which wasn’t true of any of her opponents. She’s certain she’ll do better next time; so am I.

As we talked about all this, I told her I was so incredibly proud of her. Half-joking (but in that way where I knew the answer was important), she asked me: “Even though I came in last?”

I hugged her. “You didn’t come in last. You did better than every single person who didn’t even try, who isn’t pushing to do better every day, like you are.” She hugged me back hard.

The truth is, I’m glad she didn’t come in first. She’s naturally good at a lot of things, and sometimes I worry that if she doesn’t come up against enough resistance she won’t develop a strong sense of perseverance. Given how excited she is for the next tournament, now I’m worried about that a little less. Daddy didn’t raise no quitter.

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