Saturday, November 20, 2010

Losing with Grace: A Mother/Daughter Lesson

When you lead your sons and daughters in the good way, let your words be tender and caressing, in terms of discipline that wins the heart's assent.
           Elijah Ben Solomon Zalman

Last night was Family Bingo Night at Mary's elementary school.  Barbecue dinners were available for sale before play as a fundraiser, and our local VFW post loaned the bingo boards.

I knew from the length of the dinner line and raffle ticket sales that we were in trouble.  A mother just knows these things. 

All these patrons meant lots of bingo players and a decreased chance of winning.  Besides, winning at bingo is purely luck of the draw...strategy really doesn't work (maybe multiple board play).  Just an eagle eye view of your board and a familiarity with the vocabulary "diagonal, vertical and horizontal"!
Benjamin loved opening and closing the little windows!

For days my little one bubbled with excitement about going to Family Bunco Bingo Night.   She kept explaining to my husband and I that she knew she was going to win because she could read numbers up to 100 and learned how to play bingo in preschool.  She was ready for the game night.

Anticipating the first number to be called.

As boards were cleared and students went to the stage to claim prizes, realization began to sink in for my daughter that she was not winning.  Tears began to prick at the corner of her eyes.

And I began to get frustrated.  Frustrated with the stuffiness of the room, frustrated with a fussy baby, frustrated with a distracted preschooler, but mostly frustrated with myself for not having the patience and grace to be gentle and kind with my words while teaching my daughter to lose gracefully!

It wasn't one of my better parenting moments.  I snapped at her that we "don't cry when we lose at board games" and told her if she couldn't gain some self-control we would have to leave. 

I know.  Harsh.

Fortunately, my husband has a beautifully-gentle side to him when dealing with our little ones during these types of situations and he spoke the kind words that I could not.   Unfortunately, it was too late.  The damage was done.  Her disappointment with not winning coupled with my lack of patience and grace sent her into a tailspin.  She could not regain her composure and we did end up leaving. 

It was late.  It was past bedtime for little ones.  It had been a long day.

Trying so very hard to fake a smile.

But as I lay in bed last night replaying the evening's turn of events I came to realize that an opportunity was missed.  Instead of providing her with kind words and loving hands to soothe away the disappointment, I placed adult-like expectations on her little blond head.  I took a situation that was about her and turned it into a situation about me.  I was embarrassed by her behavior, fearing that other mothers were looking at me thinking, "she really needs to teach that child to control her emotions."  Yet, I was the very one that needed to control my emotions.

Yes, our children do need to learn that life isn't fair, that it isn't always about winning, that sometimes we do lose at a game or two, but we also need to take into consideration the circumstances of the situation.  In our case, it was a first time community game night, it was hot and stuffy in the building, little brothers were not cooperating and taking away mom's attention, anticipation and excitement had been building all week about playing and teachable moments about losing gracefully were missed earlier in the week.

And the reality is that at that moment every other mother was busy helping their own child locate I-32 or G-59 or corralling wayward little ones and not finger-pointing at me.  It is a lesson taken to heart.


  1. Bingo is really hard to win, especially when there are so many people. But you really did teach her a good lesson and you spent good quality time together and that's what is important. Plus, she got to use her letters and numbers skills! So really, she's a winner! You all are.

  2. I learn some of my best motherhood lessons in bed at night, after the nights are turned off and the house is quiet. :)

  3. No matter how old we are, we learn something everyday.
    Life is a funny little thing. Don't be too hard on yourself.
    Thanks for stopping by--great to see you.


  4. ((HUGS)) I would have done just like you! And Then felt like you after the night ended. Thank you for blogging and sharing!!! Maybe I will realize, I'm not alone! We all feel the same way!

    Hugs and Love,

  5. Your amazing as a mother that you have taken a peek at a mistake made and learned from it. Your sweet daughter will forgive & forget that moment over time. Bingo can be hard.

  6. You are a great mom, The fact you worried about it after the fact shows that. I think your kids are lucky to have parents that care so much :)


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Your kind words are appreciated! As Mother Teresa said, "Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."