The other day I gave Gabe some advice I’m conflicted about.
Beth and I took different cars to church, as we were headed in different directions when it was over. Jake rode with Beth and Liv; Gabe came with me. Before we could pull out of the driveway fully (we had already begun), Jake jumped out of the van and over to my window. He wanted to make sure that I let him and Beth go first. I nodded and pulled over to the side of the road to let him pass. As I did, Gabe asked me why. This is what I told him:
Gabe, you’re going to come to a point in your life when you realize that it means way more to the other guy for him to win, than it will to you for losing. You just have to pick your fights. If Jake “wins” on the way to the church, it’ll make him very happy. If we “lose,” I won’t care. If I “win,” I still won’t care, but it’ll really hurt Jake’s feelings. You see?
He said he got it.
But it felt wrong. Or did it? I’m not sure.
He should get to win all the battles he can, shouldn’t he? He shouldn’t have to back down every time to make sure the other guy’s ego gets stroked, right? Maybe it’s different with “regular” kids. Jake shouldn’t get to win all the time, either. I know that as his Dad I should firmly trounce him from time to time so he doesn’t feel like he automatically “gets to.”
Then I flip back to the idea that Jake so rarely gets to “win” in any meaningful way. His life is hard. He gets a much shorter leash on independence than all the other 12-year olds I know. He struggles with all aspects of communication, reading, writing, math, etc. His every day is a laundry list of challenges that I will likely never fully understand. He has no real friends. He may never get his own wife and kids and house, etc.
Shouldn’t he get to “win” the race to church?
Gabe is a gifted and talented honor student. He’s on the basketball team. He’s the fastest kid in his class. He has an easy, natural charm that makes him popular with his classmates. It’s probably not the worst idea that he be made to lose to Jake once in a while, and be told why.
Or should he?
Is it justice or lousy parenting to make sure that my natural winner be made to lose?
Is it honorable to instill the understanding that it doesn’t make him less of a man to let the weaker kid win?
Especially if it means a lot to the weaker kid?
Am I teaching him empathy, or just coddling Jake?