Participation Trophy

My millennial children like to make fun of themselves for all the participation trophies they earned in childhood, for soccer, basketball, softball, baseball.  Two of them recently ditched the trophies. One of them kept hers.

“Why did you guys give us trophies for everything?” Child # 3 asked.

“The pendulum swung the other way from our own childhoods,” I said.  “We didn’t get trophies for anything.”

“I’m not giving my kids trophies for participating in recreational soccer,” one of them said.

“You gave me a trophy for trips to the ER!” Child # 3 said.

“Yes, and I got a book out of it, too,” I added.

In the children’s book, which is fiction, the ugly toad doesn’t have any trophies, but her gorgeous toad brother has several. Then the ugly toad figures out that her talent is singing, not beauty.  She wins the singing contest.

“You’re calling me an ugly toad, Mom!”

“No, I just got the idea from the fake trophy I gave you. You saw your siblings’ tophies, and you wanted one of your own. I bought you one at the party store.”

“Why toads?” Child #2 asked.

“Sapo rhymes with guapo,” I said.

Ah, the mistakes of motherhood. It does make for good lunch conversation between me and my adult children.

“So, why all the trips to the ER, Mom?” child # 3 pressed.

“You had older siblings. Blame them,” I said.

Okay, the pillow fight injury was definitely a big brother cause, but falling on the Duplo (a big Lego) on the hardwood floor? Duplos are for preschoolers. We can’t blame him for that; he’s five years older.

She got a few stitiches for that one.

And the other egg on her forehead from hitting the door frame?  Was she chasing a sibling? Probably.

The day she threw up all day while I was out?  Her dad told me when I got home (no cell phones yet). I called the pediatrician, even though it was a Saturday.

“How old is she?” the doctor asked.


“Take her to the ER right now,” he said.

Little did I know that she could die of dehydration because of her tiny size. When the nurse stuck the IV in the top of her hand, my youngest looked me in the eye and cried, “Why are you letting them hurt me, Mama?”

It was a heartbreak but a necessary thing.  

Fortunately, she hasn’t been back to the ER, except once in college (she received no trophy for that one).

The pendulum is swinging back the other way.  I had very few toys; my kids had hundreds of toys. Their kids will have very few toys.

I didn’t have a lot of clothes or material comforts. My grandmother gave us kids boxes of Kleenex for Christmas, wrapped up as gifts.  My kids had too much of everything. Their kids will have much less to store in their less-crowded rooms.

We just did a huge clean-out. I gave all the curated stuff from their childhoods (with their permission) to my nieghbor in Monterey. She knows where to take it so that it will go to kids, for free. Farm worker kids. Hotel worker kids. Kids whose parents lost their jobs during the pandemic. Dolls, toys, Beanie Babies, you name it, all for somebody who needs something to hold.

I kept some of the classics, in case I ever get a grandchild, who will get to play with special toys just at Grandma’s house.

Like the doll house.

And the metal skier guy on the metal ski slope.

And the oversized checkers game.

Different toys, but still old and special.

Like me.

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