Compassionate fathering: Participation trophies, and why you might have it all wrong

You guys! I need this trophy.
“Participation trophies, man.”

Go ahead and say those words at your favorite bar tonight. Wait until there’s a lull in the action of whatever game everyone’s watching. Wait until there’s a moment of brief quiet in between swigs of stout and car dealership commercials.

And just say it. Say it loudly. And offer nothing more.

“Participation trophies, man.”

Then watch as the heads of the most macho dudes in the place explode.

In fact, the words “participation trophy” have become a bit of a tough guy test over the past decade. Heck, once every few months, we even get to hear high-profile athletes and coaches weigh in on just how much they hate participation trophies.

This one accurately depicts my leaping ability.

But ask why these dudes are so pissed at a $4 slab of faux marble and gold-painted plastic, and you’re likely not to get very far.

Fact is, I’m not anti-participation trophy. Why would I be? Why would I place that much emotional value on any dime-store tchotchke? And I sure as hell don’t want my kids misallocating their desires onto something they could buy with the money in their piggy banks.

Instead, I’ll continue to teach my little dudes the real rewards of accomplishment–not some cheap representation of it.

And if you want to toss a trophy or two our way, we can add it to our collection; the 4 year old has started gathering as many as he can from area tag sales and the town recycling center.

He’s using them as he should: As meaningless paperweights that make meatheads really upset.

Kyle Belanger

Written by: Kyle Belanger

Proud father to three children (in order: one deceased, one adopted and one biological), Kyle is constantly navigating the worlds between actively grieving and openly gloating. Learn more about Kyle here.

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