The scarecrow contest that I mentioned yesterday was poorly advertised. I'd encouraged the kids to participate because the prize was good ($100 to a toy store) and I suspected that there would be few entries. There were no other entries when I left the scarecrow behind, but when I came back to claim it they told me that there had been one other child's scarecrow. They had given him the $50 second prize and they had the $100 for Pook and Bug.
I knew the kids would ask me how many had entered, so when they did I was honest. Pook says that he's excited about the money, but it doesn't feel as exciting to have won as it would have if there had been fifty scarecrows entered. "It would have been a bigger deal," explained Bug. I'm disappointed that there weren't more entries too.
This summer Pook was offered a chance to review movie trailers with other kids his age. He was excited to hear that it would pay. And it did. Only, they'd dismissed him when they found that they had more children than they needed. $75 for doing nothing. He was happy for the money, but disappointed that he hadn't been able to participate. I was bothered that he was being paid to have done nothing. Paid the same price as the kids who were asked to stay.
I want them to be proud of winning because they've earned the win. I want them to be proud of money they've earned. I've complained before of the automatic trophy atmosphere our kids are in. They can be happy to have a big prize, but, are they pleased with their accomplishment?
And yet. When we swim on our swim team, they generally fill all six lanes with swimmers. Sometimes your child is the only one in the age category who is swimming a particular stroke, so they fill the other five lanes with kids who are swimming something else, or who are a slightly different age. Your child gets a blue ribbon, regardless of ability. And this is something I love about our swim team. The kids come home with a ribbon to represent every heat they attempted. They are excited by the ribbons and pushing themselves to compete in events that they wouldn't ordinarily think they were capable of doing.
Isn't this the same issue? And I'm guilty of arranging to have trophies at the end of swim team, when last year there were none. I told myself that what had been missing was an end of year celebration. I didn't like leaving the last swim meet and simply never coming back together again. But to be honest, I've gotten used to the trophy routine and it felt lacking. The difference to me may be that at least the trophy is a sign of hard work. As were the swimming ribbons. The $75 for the non-movie trailer review felt wrong. The $100 scarecrow prize.... I may need to keep thinking about that. They did put in effort, if not $100 worth.