My daughter participated in a chess club, but game strategy was not the most valuable lesson she learned.
I have a running list of extracurricular activity ideas for my children, based on their particular strengths or simply based on what I think they would enjoy doing and learning about. This list comes in handy when trying to decide what evening commitments to take on.
My first born is artistic and the most creative person I know. She is not competitive at all. My second born is a strategist and loves to compete. (But I think most second born children are competitive, right?)
Chess Club had been on my list for my second daughter for a long while. I knew it would be right up her alley. So when another mom told me about an opportunity for kids to play chess once a week at our local library, I signed up all three of my school-aged kids, with my second born particularly in mind.
After the first session, all the kids came out of the instruction room with broad smiles on their faces. It seemed like fun was had by all. Apparently it was a success!
Then in the car, my oldest daughter turned toward me and started laughing. She said, “Mom, did you see that little kindergartner named Elliot?”
Yes, I had seen this kindergartner, because I noticed that most of the kids in the class were much taller than him.
Apparently Elliot would say things to her like, “Ooooh. I don’t know if you want to do that.” Then he would move his piece and say, “Bet you didn’t see that coming, now did you?”
We all started laughing at the imagery of this miniscule chess guru. And then we couldn’t stop laughing. How did this kid get to be so good? Okay, so maybe he is a natural genius. But did his mom also start reading chess strategy manuals aloud to him, while he was still in the womb? It was pretty funny to think about this smart, little kindergartener defeating a 5th grader.
During the whole five-minute car ride, we laughed and laughed.
And I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud of any child as I was in that moment. Yes, it would appear that chess might not be my oldest daughter’s forte. But, what matters more than being good at chess—or any one thing in particular—is humility and the ability to laugh at oneself and to be comfortable in one’s own skin, despite defeat.
In that moment, riding together in the minivan, I admired my daughter’s courage to try something new, be vulnerable, lose, and still laugh despite it all.
Plus, the ability to communicate a funny story goes a long way in my book.
My daughter may have lost at chess, but she is winning at life, I think.
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; second image by Amy Koons.