My daughter raced in her first-ever swim meet. She was the girl who stopped midway to fix her goggles, the one who was a full length of a pool behind the other swimmers. My daughter was the one that the crowd cheered for, not for winning a race, but because she was the last one in the pool.
As the meet wrapped up, I eagerly looked for her, wondering if this new hobby would be short lived. My daughter spotted me in the stands and raced over, her smile stretching from ear to ear.
“Mom!! This is fun! I think I came in last place in all of my races,” my child exclaimed. “But that doesn’t matter!”
Right then and there, my eyes filled with tears, and my heart filled with pride.
My child may not come in first place or even take home a ribbon. My daughter may be average, at best, in any sport she tries. But all that doesn’t matter. She’s having fun. And that’s what is most important.
Sports and extra-curricular activities have become so competitive; many kids are “all in” by the time they reach elementary school. Maybe it’s a true love for the sport, or maybe it’s the parents pushing their child to be the best. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way. For many of us parents, our children are never going to be “the best.” We just want our children to find something they love. My daughter will most likely never make the gymnastics team, but she still loves to take lessons. And she may not receive a swim medal, but that doesn’t stop her from jumping in the pool several times a week.
As I watched my daughter skip off to her teammates at the swim meet, I smiled and felt a huge sense of relief. I was so worried that she might be embarrassed or sad that she came in last place. But it turns out, she couldn’t care less.
My daughter found an activity that makes her heart happy, and that’s the best prize any parent could ask for.
A version of this originally appeared here.