Today was awards day at the elementary school.  These things are always long, drawn out affairs, and I suffer greatly from lack of patience.  Our 2nd grade teacher tried to shorten the process by just handing out the standard certificates at the ceremony, then giving out the rest in the classroom afterwards.

One thing that bothers me-and I know that alot of people feel strongly about this topic, both pro and con-is that these little kindergartners and first and second graders are sad when they don't get a certificate, and it seems like everyone else does.

I know what you're thinking, I've heard it before.  Life isn't fair and they need to learn that sometime.  This is a particularly painful lesson; atleast it was for me, beginning when I first realized that Santa was more generous to alot of my friends than to me.  Then there were the parties that I didn't get invited to, the jobs I didn't get, the pimples I did get, the list could go forever.

For several years I was the Cubmaster for my boys' cub scout pack.  Every halloween we would have a great big party and costume contest.     I didn't judge costumes, for a couple of reasons; the first being that I didn't want anyone's feelings hurt, so I gave everyone a small prize.  Now you may say that's wrong, it's not teaching children anything.  Okay, you may be right.  I'll allow you to have your opinion.  The other reason I didn't judge is probably more important than hurt feelings.  Some children obviously had parents who put alot of work into their costumes, while some had store bought costumes (their parents put alot of $ into those), and still others came dressed as cubscouts or little boys. 

Who wins this contest?  Little Johnny-in his handmade Spider Man-because his mom is more talented/creative, etc., or Little Davie-the one dressed as himself-for originality?  In this instance, aren't we actually judging the parents' involvement/work, or lack thereof?  How fair is that to the child?  Oh, right, the issue is not about fairness; it's about right and just. 

Okay, then, is it just to punish a child for the parents' shortcomings?  I hope not, because I would hate to see what my children reap from my actions and deeds.

During my tenure as cubmaster, there were different versions of this argument frequently.  We had one little boy who desperately wanted to attend daycamp; he had heard how much fun the boys had and he wanted to share in it.  This poor little boy hadn't experienced much fun in his short life, and I wanted him to have this opportunity.  Unfortunately, his parents said they couldn't afford to pay the camp fee.

I decided to apply for a campership in his name, which would allow him to attend at no cost to his family.  One of my leaders very bluntly told me that if these parents chose to drink all their money, we should not reward them by giving their son a free trip.  I couldn't believe it.  She was ready to punish this needy little boy for what she felt were his parents' inadequacies.

Guess who prevailed?  Yep, it was me.  He went to camp, and he had such a good time, that I made sure he got to go the next year.

When we had our Pinewood Derby, even the participants received a trophy.  The only contest where I didn't award everyone a prize was the father/son cake bake.  I would like to have been able, but this is such a time-honored tradition, that I decided not to try to change it.  I did want to, though.

I realize that this may not be the best way to handle fairness with children.  They really do need to learn that life isn't always fair, and that they will get knocked down sometimes.  And they will learn this, sooner or later.  But what does it hurt if I give them a pillow to fall on?