Wrestling with Life

People may be getting tired of reading about my grandchildren, but I never tire of writing about them. I believe all of them are superior children and worthy of every superlative I use to describe them. The babies are particularly cute and too young to have developed many annoying habits. The older children are practically perfect, but a number of them have followed in their parents’ footsteps by taking up the sport of wrestling.

I really don’t like wrestling. I was on the debate team in high school and college, and the sports I selected for my children when they were too young to care were soccer and baseball. They found wrestling on their own. Wrestling is, in many ways, the purest of sports because size doesn’t matter and it’s basically an individual contest. The bad part is watching your children break bones, get concussions, and have other less serious injuries on too many occasions. There is also the emotional pain of watching them lose in matches that are really important to them. All of my sons won district championships and went on to place at the state tournament, but they all lost at least one match that kept them from achieving their highest goal. It’s not easy to explain to a teenager that taking second at a state tournament does not represent failure.

Part of the problem is our cultural attitude toward winning and losing. Some people act as if all of life is one great wrestling match where only one person can emerge as the winner and everyone else is a loser. This attitude appears at wrestling tournaments in the form of T-shirts with the slogan “Second place is the first loser,” emblazoned on the back. Perhaps it’s this nonsense that has colored my view of wrestling.

Everyone, at some level, is a winner and a loser. If we are lucky enough to live in the United States, we won the lottery of access to wealth. The U.S. has more than a 21-percent share of the world’s gross domestic product; and our next closest competitor, China, has just over 10 percent. We have wrestled a good share of the world’s prosperity into our country and have kept it here for several generations. Our wealth, however, has not solved many of our most difficult problems.

I hope my grandchildren will learn, if they haven’t already, that their value, worth, importance, significance, or status as human beings is not dependent on whether they win or lose wrestling matches or any other type of contest. The real lesson to be learned is the importance of taking on challenges and learning from the experience of wrestling with them. Today’s losses will help lead to tomorrow’s wins, but victory may look nothing like what we imagined when we stepped onto the mat.

I now have five grandchildren (four boys and one girl) wrestling in various venues around the state; and I will soon have more time to go watch them, not to mention fewer excuses not to. Their matches always cause me more anxiety than they should, but I will go as a way to express my love. We are all wrestling with life, and it helps a lot to know we have people cheering for us.