No Award Doesn’t Make You A “Nothing”

The school year is drawing to a close, and for my firstborn, who has just experienced her first year in primary school, it has been quite a ride.

Academically, she did fairly well, so I wasn’t too concerned. We didn’t put her in any tuition class, or give her assessment books to do at home. HusBenKoh and I felt that as long as she was doing okay in school and wasn’t having too many problems, we would let her be.

Socially, we knew that Phoebie has made quite a few friends and has been learning about how she conducts herself, so we were not too concerned about that either.

Even though primary one students don’t have to take exams, they’ve had mini tests over the past four terms. With tests comes results, and with results comes awards.

Phoebie’s form teacher announced the awards winners for her class using the announcement app, and as I looked through the list, I knew Phoebie didn’t win anything. Not that it mattered to me, because I knew that my daughter had already done her best, and for someone who doesn’t have extra academic classes, she has done tremendously well.

Still, I decided to talk to Phoebie about the awards to find out how she feels.

“I saw the list of awards winners for your class,” I started, “Some of your classmates have done really well. But you know, I think you did really well this year too.”

“Yeah,” Phoebie answered, “And Eve (not her real name) won the Best Progress.”

Eve is one of Phoebie’s good friends, and Phoebie sounded a little disappointed as she spoke.

“Why do you sound like that? Are you okay?” I asked.

“Well, I didn’t win any award, and I wished I did,” was Phoebie’s reply.

“Hey, you know, Papa and I are really proud of you for what you have done in school this year. Just because you didn’t win an award doesn’t mean you didn’t do well,” I said.

“It’s just that… I want my friends to think I’m ‘something’,” said Phoebie.

“Well, you don’t have to win an award to be ‘something’, you know,” I told her.

My instinct about talking to her about the awards was right. Phoebie was affected.

“Look, there are… 6 award winners from your class. That means that there are 25 of you who didn’t win an award. Does that mean that the rest of you are ‘nothing’?” I asked.

“That’s not what I mean,” said Phoebie.

“Okay, so what do you mean?” I asked.

“What I mean is, because my friends like to say that I like to cry… So I was hoping that I could get an award and show them that I am ‘something’,” Phoebie explained.

“Ah I see,” I answered, “But, what has winning an award got to do with the crying thing? You don’t like it that your friends say that you always cry, so what should you be doing instead to prove them wrong?”

From a glum face, Phoebie suddenly smiled sheepishly and said, “Don’t cry so much. Hehehehe…”

“Exactly,” I said, “But it doesn’t mean that you cannot cry. There are some things that we still cry about, like if we lose something or someone precious, or if we are hurt. The important thing is what we do after we cry. And sometimes maybe it is a small matter, and actually, we don’t have to cry about it. So what can you do instead?”

“Pray that I don’t cry so much,” Phoebie answered, smiling sheepishly again.

“That’s right,” I said, “Now, can you imagine if Mama tells myself, ‘Sometimes I’m too fierce to the kids. Never mind, I just be fierce even if i don’t need to be’?”

“Hehehehe… No,” Phoebie answered with a little laugh.

“That’s right, so i just pray that I do better the next time,” I explained.

“So you see, you don’t have to win an award to prove that you are ‘something’. If you want to be ‘something’, you can learn to cry less and be stronger. You can be the kindest girl in class. You can be a good friend,” I continued.

“You know, when I think back about my primary school, I don’t remember the people who won awards. I remember the people who were my good friends. You understand?”

Phoebie nodded, smiling.

I gave Phoebie a big hug and we continued with the rest of our day.

The awards don’t define our children, it’s who they are that matters.