Today Dante had a small skating competition in his class. Prior to going to the competition I asked him if he wanted to tidy his hair with gel or wear something nice for the competition and he said, “Who cares? It’s not important.”
We showed up at the rink and most of the kids were dressed up. One fellow classmate was a boy around 9 years of age wearing slacks, dress shirt, and a pink vest. I walked over to his mother commenting how beautifully dressed he was and his mother said, “He didn’t want to dress up. He said that this competition is not important and it is not important for him to dress up.”
“What did you say to him about that?” I asked, feeling intrigued about the similarity of our situations.”
“I told him that it is important to ME that he dresses up for this competition.” The proud mom said.
Interestingly, this boy won two medals and Dante won none.
After the medal ceremony, Dante said to me, “Mommy, I didn’t get a medal.”
“I know, you said it wasn’t important…” I said.
“Mommy, where do they get the medals?” Dante asked.
“I don’t know, there is probably a medal shop somewhere.” I said.
“Can we go buy a medal?” He asked with a sly smile on his face.
“You can buy a medal if you want but normally medals are ‘earned'”. I said.
I thought it was interesting that both Dante and his skating friend did not view the competition as important and both didn’t want to dress up. One mother forced her son to dress up and one mother didn’t. I start to wonder if this is where it starts — how a child learns what is “Important” and what isn’t. How did we decide what is important in life? People are often stressed about different things in life. Some of the more common things people stressed about and strive for are: good education, good jobs, good career, have money in the bank, get married & have kids, live in a big house…etc.
Does it start with a conversation similar to the ones I’ve had with Dante? The parents, teachers, and other caregivers instill what they thought was important and the child adopted the will of the adults as something they should also view as important.
Gradually, they grow up stressing about how they look, how many medals they get, what color are the medals and placements, how good their grades are compared to others, how great of a “job” they could get in life, how big of a house they can live in, how hot of a wife they can marry…etc
Dante taught me an important lesson today, he taught me what was “unimportant”. Life goes on long after the medal ceremony…whether you win a medal or not.