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Learning to roll with the punches

Being a child involves learning some harsh lessons sometimes. And there were a few in our household this week.

It began with the seven-year-old receiving the news via email that he hadn’t got through to the next round of the BBC’s 500 Words short story competition. It didn’t matter that he’d been up against 123,400 other children. It didn’t matter that Chris Evans wrote to him personally (kind of) to say: ‘PLEASE don’t give up writing.’

Like all the others who’d entered, he’d put his heart and soul into his story, and in his case had given up a perfectly good afternoon when he could’ve been rotting his brain on the Xbox instead.

He wasn’t the only one nursing a hurt ego. We’re still reeling from what happened when our three year old took on his cousin (also three) in a game of Hungry Hippos bought by their grandparents, who’d optimistically thought it would result in hours of fun.

It quickly became apparent – from the red face and tears – that our youngest son is the worst loser in the world.

Fair enough, his mother has a robust competitive streak, but I am slightly subtler in my approach and have never fallen to my knees, thumped my fists on the ground and shrieked: ‘I WANT TO WIN!’

I think it’s a side effect of any child who has older, adoring brothers. They refuse to let the little ones lose anything.

When they play football, our three year old scores every time. At Swingball, he’s an ace.

But when it came to competing with someone equally cute everyone had to just stand back and leave them to it.

The result was mayhem.

Of course, all of us remember moments of disappointment like this from our childhood. As Rocky Balboa said: ‘It ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done’.

Unfortunately, you can’t give this speech to a three year old when they’ve covered their entire face in snot from crying so much.

And as inspiring as Stallone’s speech was, the sting of humiliation hurts. I remember it myself on being kicked out of our local synchronized swimming team, aged six. It was a sensible decision: every time I lifted up a leg I plunged to the bottom of the pool like I had a house brick the bum end of my swimming costume. But I was still sad, as all kids are when they learn the brutal truth that life – and games of Hungry Hippos - don’t always go their way.

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