There were little balls of Play-Doh, a random handful of teeny little vacuum-unfriendly Legos and a pile of papers from fourth grade. I threw them all out, along with a giant piece of poster board with a hastily drawn soccer field that had a hole in its penalty box, and a fuzzy, unmatched black sock. And then, in the middle of the Great Bedroom Cleanout While the Kids Are at Grandma’s this past weekend, I stopped on these:
Impressive, right? Except the vast majority of these trophies aren’t really trophies at all. Every kid in the league got one. Swim trophies. Basketball trophies. Soccer trophies. Even a trophy for being “Jake’s Awesome Friend!” which, in the age of Facebook “Friends,” could spell a boon for trophy shops.
In other words, they’re a bunch of awards for just showing up.
I didn’t like them when he got them, and I pretty much hate them now. To me, it’s a big shelf of “You’re special, just like everybody else.” And that’s what’s wrong with raising kids in the 21st century. If you don’t have to earn your accolades, then what? What happens when you grow up and you don’t get a medal for attending a conference or going through job training?
I found out last night, when some friends who were here for dinner were lamenting the sense of entitlement among some fresh-out-of-college hires at their companies. They felt that these products of the first Trophies for Everyone generation all too often aren’t willing to pay their dues. They want the corner office, and they want it now.
Well, of course they do, because they, too, have a shelf full of trophies for being Jake’s Awesome Friend and for playing six basketball games back in second grade. Why shouldn’t they be lauded for showing up every day for work?
I have long told my kids that I dislike these rewards designed to pat them on the back simply for doing what they signed up to do. You might as well give out goody bags at the end of the season. Same sentiment.
But they seem to know the difference. I hope. Of the oodles of trophies in my son’s room just two of them were actually earned: a second place soccer trophy (for losing to an undefeated team by just two goals) and this honkin’ big thing:
A first place trophy for being the winningest team in boys’ “minor league” rec baseball three years ago. And he earned it. Well how about that?
I’m going to suggest to my son that we put away all the medals and trophies except for the ones he truly earned. If he agrees, then I’ve done my job. If he doesn’t, then I’ve got a lot of undoing to do before he applies for his first job, don’t I? Because when “everybody wins,” nobody does.