What winning really means
My 10-year-old son kept reminding us about the children's fishing tournament at the 4-H center in Milton for weeks. He hung the flier on the fridge as soon as it came home from school, one of the few things he he has ever taken out of his bag without a parent nagging him.
To say this kid LOVES fishing is an understatement. He is obsessive. He spends all his allowance on lures, thoroughly studies every piece in his tackle box and knows his book of fish in New York backward and forward.
As I kissed him goodnight Friday evening, the night before the annual kids fishing derby, he definitively told me, "Mom, I'm going to win that fishing tournament." I told my husband I was glad our son had that kind of attitude. It's always been my philosophy to approach everything with that kind of confidence.
Sometimes that confidence has bordered on the ridiculous for me. Even things I don't know much about, I just think, "I'll figure it out." Like when my bosses at The Saratogian wanted to start a magazine. I had taken one magazine production class in college, but that seemed like enough to work with. I never doubted we could pull it off, and three years later, Spirit of Saratoga magazine has a pretty loyal readership.
So the fact my son was oozing with confidence seemed very normal and encouraging to me.
When we arrived at the 4-H center, he wanted nothing to do with breakfast and was irritated by the fact the rest of us wanted to take advantage of the all-you-can-eat buffet. He was itching to get out to the pond. Once out there, he scoped out a spot (nowhere near his sister and dad) and got to work. I followed him; but he didn't want me doing anything for him. "Mom, I know how to put a worm on a hook better than you," he told me, when I asked if he needed help. He's right, too. So I backed off and let him do his thing.
He wasn't catching anything, but his determination didn't wane. Within an hour, the organizer of the event came over and pulled me aside. He said they had been watching my son and were very impressed with his focus. They wanted to award him the Best Sportsman award. My heart melted. He was going to be rewarded for his efforts regardless of whether he caught a fish in the next hour and a half or not.
He didn't either. After someone caught a big one a bout 15 feet away (which I think actually won the "largest fish" in the tournament), he moved closer to that spot and kept at it, hooking a good-sized fish only to have it break the hook off. Instead of getting frustrated, he quickly retied a new hook, baited it and recast.
After the awards ceremeony in which he received a large trophy, he returned to the pond, still wanting to catch a fish. He did, too. We ended up bringing a couple trout home for dinner.
As we walked back to the car from the pond and he had his trophy in one hand and the stringer with the fish in the other, I asked him what his favorite part of the day was. "Catching these fish," he said without missing a beat.
As for the trophy, he apparently never doubted himself. I asked as we drove home if he thought he would be going home with a big trophy like that, and he answered, "Yes, mom. I told you I was going to win that tournament."