So much of what we share as parents — both online and in real life — is about our kids' successes. Johnny scored straight As again! Mary killed it as the lead in her play! Jimmy got picked for All Stars for the sixth year in a row! Joanie won the national spelling bee!
And I think these achievements are fantastic, and all reasons to celebrate.
But recently I watched as one of my daughters was picked dead last for something. Four team captains went around and around until she was the last girl standing. It was crushing and humiliating and sad for her. As a parent, it was painful to watch.
Sometimes life just ain't fair.
She kept her chin up the whole time, however, and my deflated heart began to grow as she persevered through the difficult situation. By the end, she even had a smile on her tired little face.
I know it's not the worst thing that will ever happen to her. It's certainly a first world problem. In my heart, I know that facing adversity is what makes us stronger and more capable of dealing with what life throws at us.
But to watch your child's confidence diminish, to look at a piece of her fade away before your eyes; well, it's a tough pill to swallow.
When we got home later that night, I decided to talk about it with her. She already rationalized the reasons behind her selection placement: she was newer to the group and didn't know the girls as well, and then she moved to a more self-deprecating acknowledgment of her lack of talent.
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Watching her try so hard to justify the situation almost broke me. It took all my willpower not to pull her on my lap and shout, "Sometimes girls can be so mean! They don't know what they're missing!"
But as I listened to her talk about the positives of the event, I realized something bigger. She wasn't letting this setback break her spirit.
I told her, "You know what? I think it was a good thing it was you that got picked last. I think there was a purpose to it."
"Mom, what are you trying to say? That I deserved it? What did I do to deserve feeling like a loser?" her tiny voice erupted.
"Someone always has to be picked last. Always. And usually, it's the same person time and time again. You've never been picked last, have you?"
Her small head looked down, and it shook slowly side to side.
"And you'll probably never forget this feeling, will you?"
"No, even though I'd like to," she responded.
"Well, maybe you being picked last saved someone else, someone who always gets picked last, from that feeling tonight. Maybe that girl isn't as strong or confident. Maybe she needed this to feel good, even if it's only for one night. And I want you to think about that feeling the next time you get to pick the teams. Maybe you can make sure the same girl doesn't feel that way every time, right?"
"I think that's a good idea, Mom. And I hope someone remembers that for me."
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I swallowed hard and smiled at my little girl who is growing up so fast, squashing back the tears I wanted to flow both from wanting to erase my child's pain and the pride that comes from knowing she will be better because of it.
Because watching your child struggle, knowing your child was picked dead last — well, that's not something you run to post on Facebook.
But I did, because maybe you've felt that way before too. Maybe you'll talk to your son or daughter about picking teams using kindness because it may give someone a needed confidence boost. Maybe, just maybe, you'll share your story with someone as well, and it will help them get through a difficult time.
Because while I want to celebrate your child's successes, sometimes sharing our struggles can make a parent feel less alone.
And that can be all the difference.
All it takes is one brave parent.
Be brave today.
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