In Defense of Participation Trophies

NFL running back DeAngelo Williams recently made news because he forced his daughter to give back a ribbon she got for participating in a school field day. Williams said that his daughter hadn’t done anything to earn the ribbon, and he didn’t want her to think that merely showing up is worthy of a reward. Last year, another former NFL player James Harrison similarly made his sons give back their participation trophies.

Many people have complained about participation awards in recent years, claiming that such awards have created an entitlement attitude among American youth. They believe that because kids are being rewarded for doing nothing but showing up, they’ll expect to always have things handed to them, and will never work to accomplish anything.

I disagree with those critics. I think they’ve forgotten a few things about children and youth sports:

Children are not stupid

Kids know which trophies matter and which don't. (Image source)

Kids know which trophies matter and which don’t. (Image source)

I don’t think most kids are going to get those participation awards and think that they “earned” something. They can see that the kids who won got different – usually bigger – awards, and are smart enough to know the difference.

More importantly, I don’t think the awards really affect them very much. The kids who really want to win aren’t going to be satisfied with a mere participation award. The kids who don’t care as much probably aren’t going to become more competitive simply because they didn’t receive a ribbon.

Besides, the extra motivation might not even matter because…

Hard work only goes so far

“You can be anything you want to be! You just have to work hard!” These words of advice have been presented to countless children over the years, and they are simply not true. For instance, no matter how hard I worked, I was never going to make it to the NFL. (I wasn’t even invited to the Combine!)

DeAngelo Williams (Image source)

DeAngelo Williams (Image source)

Williams seems to think it was his amazing work ethic that got him to the NFL. Had he been coddled with participation awards as a child, he might not have had the motivation to make it. Admittedly, Williams had a harder road to the NFL than most, but I’d guess that he’s still more athletically gifted than 99.99% of the country’s population.

Most kids can work as hard as they want, but they’re still not going to play professionally. Williams and Harrison seem to think that by taking away their kids’ participation awards, it inspired them to work harder and win actual trophies later on. Did they win because they had extra motivation? Or was it because as the children of elite athletes, they’re probably more naturally gifted than their classmates?

Not every kid is going to win, even if he’s the hardest worker around. And they’re never going to work hard at a sport if they don’t enjoy it. That’s why we need to remember that…

Sports are supposed to be fun

Here’s a good message to send to children: Winning is the only thing that matters. Did you play hard, try your best, and have a good time? Nobody cares! You’re a loser, so you get nothing!

While I’m sure some parents sign their kids up for youth sports with dreams of scholarships or lucrative professional careers, most kids are playing sports because they’re something fun for them to do. At the youth level, children should just be allowed to enjoy playing the games, and for some kids, participation awards add to the sense of fun.

Let the kids have fun first, and worry about winning later! (Image source)

Let the kids have fun first, and worry about winning later! (Image source)

Perhaps the lack of reward for mere participation will inspire some children to work harder. On the other hand, it may also teach them that winning is more important than teamwork and sportsmanship. For the less talented kids, it might make them want to just quit.

Williams and Harrison had successful professional careers, so it makes sense that they may have forgotten that sports aren’t really supposed to be work. They also may not realize that if kids don’t enjoy playing sports, then they’ll probably never succeed, no matter how athletically gifted they may be. Let the kids just enjoy playing first. They can worry about winning later.

Kids will learn soon enough that in the real world, mere participation isn’t enough to receive an award. They’ll figure out that they won’t get handed a trophy simply for showing up to something. But at the youth sports level, or at a school field day? If a ribbon or small trophy adds to the fun for some kids, then I don’t see any harm in them.

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Mama Cooked a Breakfast with No Hog

The twins slept late yesterday morning. That should have made it a good morning, but apparently, the lack of toddlers demanding my attention caused me to get lazy and sloppy. Mistakes were made. Oh my, how mistakes were made.

The Cutlet was planning on buying her lunch yesterday, so I didn’t even have to worry about packing something for her. But even on the days when she buys, I still need to include a snack, complete with a napkin note. (I started drawing things on her napkins on the first day of school, not entirely realizing that I’d have to do so EVERY day of school.)

Still, snacks are easy enough. I threw some cucumbers and carrots into a container, added a pack of fruit snacks, drew a picture of Woody Woodpecker, and the snack was complete. The only thing I forgot was to actually place the snack bag into her backpack.


Behold my amazing art skills

Oops. Fortunately, her teacher has a backup snack in the classroom, so it wasn’t a complete disaster.

That should have been a sign that I wasn’t working at optimal efficiency. Considering that the twins were still asleep when the au pair’s shift began, you can excuse me for thinking I was in the clear. When the Cutlass finally woke, the au pair took her into the basement while I got dressed and ready for work. Cujo was somehow still asleep, so I said I’d keep an ear out for him.

I usually don’t get dressed for work until the last minute, because the closer I am to being ready to leave, the more likely it is that one of the children will either spill something on me, or find a way to rub some sort of biological substance on my clothes.

As I was dressing, I heard Cujo was awake, so I figured I would get him out of his crib. As I picked him up, I quickly realized my mistake. Apparently, the lengthy slumber had given him plenty of time to evacuate his bladder and bowels, as he was soaked through his pajamas. And because I was holding him against my body, my shirt was now wet.

I thought that it wasn’t a complete loss, but no; a whiff of my shirt revealed that it smelled like poop. Fortunately, according to my personal dress code, Thursdays are “T-shirt Thursdays,” so it wasn’t too much trouble to change.

Meanwhile, Cujo still had to be cleaned up. I wiped him up as best I could and being in somewhat of a hurry at this point, I dressed him in a T-shirt and pants. That was my third – and most costly mistake.

A few weeks ago, the au pair walked in to the twins’ room after they woke up from their nap and found Cujo completely naked. He had managed to take off all of his clothes and his diaper. Fortunately, the diaper did not contain poop that day.

I’m sure most of you can see where this story is headed, and if you want to stop reading at this point, I don’t blame you. If you don’t want to continue, may I suggest you check out this post from April which you may have missed?

Since that day, we’ve made sure that when he is put in his crib, he is wearing something that can be secured with snaps. He either needs to wear “footie” pajamas, or have a onesie underneath his clothes. It seems that he had been patiently waiting for this opportunity to have access to his diaper. And this time, his diaper was not clean.

I assure you, his crib did not look as clean as this one. (Image source)

I assure you, his crib did not look as clean as this one. (Image source)

The au pair spent much of the afternoon cleaning up his crib until Mrs. Cutter came home early with a bottle of wine and sent her away with a hearty apology. Thankfully, she reported for work this morning and was able to laugh about it.

The twins were up at their normal time this morning, so life was back to normal. I made sure that the Cutlet’s snack and lunch were put in her backpack, and Cujo’s clothes have been securely snapped shut. Mistakes may very well be made as the day goes on, but I feel confident that at least we made it through the morning unscathed.

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The Office Soda Machine – IMPORTANT UPDATE

Perhaps some of the decision makers at my company read my blog, because there have been some changes to the office’s soda machine selection since my original post. If they do read my blog – and there are several reasons why I hope they don’t – then it seems that they made these changes to spite me, because they took away two of the choices that I had approved of.


In recent weeks, a couple of my co-workers had pressed the button for Diet Dr Pepper, but received full calorie Dr Pepper instead. (NOTE: I humbly apologize for incorrectly including a period after the Dr in my original post. This was a careless mistake, and I can assure you it will not happen again.) This was an unpleasant surprise for employees who hoped for a low-calorie alternative while still enjoying that delicious Dr Pepper taste.

Apparently, it was an error in labeling and not in the loading process. Regular Dr Pepper is now the new reality in the office, and the machine has been updated to reflect the change. I’m not sure where that leaves the Diet Dr Pepper enthusiasts. I guess they’re SOL.

If that wasn’t enough, another one of the low-calorie options has been replaced by its full-calorie counterpart. Sprite Zero is out, and regular Sprite is in. Perhaps they decided that two diet and caffeine free options was excessive. That’s understandable, but why replace SZ instead of the abomination known as Caffeine Free Diet Coke?

Since I know everyone is following this saga closely, I’ll be sure to provide more updates if further changes are made.

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Sit Down!

“You are getting strapped into this seat whether you like it or not!”

Mrs. Cutter and I have found ourselves saying those words quite a bit over the past month. The Cutlass has decided that she no longer likes riding in the minivan and whenever we try to put her in the car seat, she fights us with all of her (considerable) strength.

We’re not sure why she’s developed this aversion, but we think part of the problem is expectations. The Cutlass greatly enjoys playing outside, and constantly asks to go out. Any time she sees someone head towards the door, she’ll pull on her coat from the hook and look up hopefully. Or she’ll walk over to our sliding door, point and ask, “‘Side?”

The problem could be that our car seat isn't as cool as this one. (Image source)

The problem could be that our car seat isn’t as cool as this one. (Image source)

When we put her coat and shoes on, she assumes that she’s going to either get to play outside or take a ride in her wagon. So there’s some understandable disappointment when instead of running free, she gets crammed her into the middle car seat. Maybe she’d like it better if she didn’t have the middle seat, but she’s lighter than her brother – and therefore easier to lift into the middle – and we’ve already had some problems with the Cutlet and Cujo sitting next to each other. (Note: I don’t envision this situation getting better any time soon.)

We’ve also tried to prepare her for what’s going to happen. “Would you like to go into the car?” “We’re going to take a ride in the car?” “Who wants to go in the car?” She seems to be on board with this plan right until the time we open the van door.

This weekend, we tried two different techniques for getting her into her seat.

On Saturday evening, Mrs. Cutter was away, and I needed to bring all three kids to the supermarket. Not wanting to fight my daughter by myself, I took them all to the playground across the street before our trip. I hoped that if she was first allowed to run free, she would be more accepting of getting into the car.

For one of the first times in my parenting career, I was actually right! After about an hour of playground time, the Cutlass allowed me to put her into the car seat without complaint. On Sunday, I once again took them to the playground before a car trip, and once again, she allowed me to strap her in peacefully.

Unfortunately, we don’t always have the luxury of taking her outside to play before we have to leave. We used to try to calm her down so that she would allow us to strap her in. Since that didn’t work, we’ve moved on to the “We’re not even going to try to be nice about this” method.

Based on that smile, I can assure you these are not my children. (Image source)

Based on that smile, I can assure you these are not my children. (Image source)

We hold her down in the seat with one hand  (This takes more strength than you’d think. When this child arches her back in protest, she ARCHES) and strap her in with the other. I’m actually not sure how much longer this technique will last. While we can overpower her now, she is freakishly strong, and she might actually be stronger than us in a few month. Thankfully, she usually calms down soon after we’ve gotten her strapped in, especially if we give her a snack to help soothe her.

On the other hand, sometimes she doesn’t settle down – and these times usually correspond with the times when her brother isn’t too keen on getting in the van either. (He’s generally better with it, but he’s thrown his share of fits too.) On those days, I have one piece of advice for all my fellow drivers on the road: Stay out of my way, because there’s a very frazzled father behind the wheel, and he’s not going to take kindly to anyone who might slow him down.

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…And Z is For Zoo!

Today is the final day of April, which means it is also the final day of the Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Unlike last year, I managed to go 26-for-26 in 2016! (pause for applause) I shall finish up the challenge by discussing my trip to the zoo.

Last week, the Cutlet’s kindergarten class took a field trip to the Washington DC National Zoo, and they asked for parent volunteers. Wanting to spend some extra time with my daughter, I volunteered, although I didn’t realize what I was actually signing up for.

I figured the entire class would travel together on a pre-determined schedule, and I’d just be along to lend a helping hand and keep track of the kids. Instead, each parent was assigned two children – my daughter and another student – and we were pretty much on our own.

My first thought was, “So I’m singlehandedly responsible for the well-being of a child I’ve never met?” My second thought was, “What if this kid is a prick?” Fortunately, Aaron was not a prick. He listened well, and he and the Cutlet got along nicely.

We were supposed to pair with another parent, but when we got off the bus, there were so many children there, (apparently it was a very popular day for school field trips) that we got separated from most of the others. Undaunted, we headed off to see the animals.

We didn’t have enough time to see everything, but we hit the key areas: The giant pandas, the ape house, the small mammal house (the kids were really excited to see the naked mole rats), and the cheetahs. The kids were pleased to learn that they would serve as a suitable meal for a cheetah.

I may have broken the rules a little. We were specifically told not to buy the kids anything, but they were behaving well, so I splurged on some ice cream. I know, I’m a real rebel. At least, unlike some of the parents, I was able to get us back to the bus on time.

All in all, it was an excellent day. I got to skip work and spend some quality time with my daughter. What more could I ask for?

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was Z and the topic was “Zoo.”

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A Birthday Treat for Mrs. Cutter

Today is Mrs. Cutter’s birthday, so in her honor I will post this video by her favorite 1980’s boy band, New Kids on the Block!

A discussion on Facebook today revealed that her favorite member of NKOTB was Joey McIntyre. One of her friends then pointed out that I bear somewhat of a resemblance to Joey.

That jean jacket is FIRE. (Image source)

That jean jacket is FIRE. (Image source)

I realize that those of you who don’t know what I look like will have no way of judging whether or not this is true. But now I fully understand why Mrs. Cutter was attracted to me in the first place: I’m simply a stand-in for her childhood crush.

Since I’m sure everyone is now curious as to what Joey looks like today, here’s what I assume is a more recent picture:

I guess he’s aged okay. It could be a lot worse.

Anyway, here’s to another year of Mrs. Cutter! Hope she’s had a good day, and that tonight turns out even better!

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was Y and the topic was “You Got It (The Right Stuff).”

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X-Amining the X-Men Movies

The final trailer for X-Men:Apocalypse was released last week. There had been speculation whether or not Wolverine was in the movie – most people suspected a cameo similar to what we got in First Class – but the trailer confirmed his presence. It doesn’t appear as if he’s heavily featured, but he is expected to show up for at least one big fight scene.

I had a brief discussion with a friend over the merits of the First Class movies vs. the original X-trilogy. We both agreed that the First Class movies are superior. The first two were excellent, and early reports on Apocalypse are good as well. Meanwhile, the originals ranged from okay (X-Men), to very good (X2), to crappy (The Last Stand).

However, I’m not sure they could have made the First Class trilogy if they hadn’t started out with the originals. (Aside from the obvious problem that about a third of Days of Future Past features the original cast.) Remember that when the first X-Men came out in 2000, comic book movies weren’t nearly as mainstream as they are today. As strange as it seems now, the general public wasn’t all that familiar with the X-Men, so they had to introduce the basic concepts: Mutants have emerged, humanity fears them, Magneto wants mutant supremacy, the X-Men want to stop him.

They also wanted Wolverine – the most popular character in the comic – to be heavily featured, since they (correctly) assumed that he would be a marketable movie character. But his presence in First Class likely would have distracted from the key story of First Class: The divide between Xavier and Magneto.

Speaking of Wolverine, Hugh Jackman has said that after the upcoming Wolverine 3, he’s done playing the character. We’ll see if he really means it (Shoving enough money in an actor’s direction can often make him reconsider), or if they have to figure out how to replace him. Would they be worried that fans wouldn’t accept a different actor playing the part? It didn’t hurt the Spider-Man franchise, but people were never that into Tobey Maguire’s portrayal of Peter Parker.

If they did replace Jackman, I hope they go with an actor of appropriate height, since in the comics, Wolverine is about 5’4″ tall. He’s somewhat a hero to all the short people out there, so it would be nice to see that reflected on the big screen.

Of course they could always take the revolutionary step of making future X-Men movies without Wolverine. It seems unlikely, but these movies seem to be licenses to print money, with or without Wolverine. Either way, we’re probably going to get X-movies until the end of time.

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was X and the topic was “X-Men.”


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The Great Outdoors

Haven’t had much time in front of the computer today, so this post is going to be abbreviated. I’m attempting to write it from my phone while sitting at Nationals Park watching a baseball game.

What I’m currently looking at

My team at work eschewed the office in favor of going on a hike today. We walked along the Appalachian trail in Northern Maryland. Not too tough of a trail, and there was some nice scenery.

It was pleasant getting outside and taking a break from the normal monotony of office life. It just would have been nicer had the weather cooperated. 

The temperature was a bit chilly and there was a sporadic drizzle. Fortunately, I was dressed appropriately and I didn’t feel too wet or cold, but a sunny day still would have been preferable.

Since I apparently didn’t get enough of the chilly temperatures, I’m now outside watching baseball. Not a pleasant night for it, but I’m bundled up.

Back to the office tomorrow, so my post should be a little more detailed. You can decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

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Casting My Ballot

It is convenient that the “V” day for the Blogging From A to Z Challenge happened to fall on election day in Maryland, as it provides me an easy topic to write about.

A few weeks ago, I received my voting instructions and sample ballot in the mail. Ever since, I’ve been meaning to do some research on all the candidates to figure out who I’d cast my ballot for. As mentioned, I already decided to support Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary race, but there were other offices up for grabs too. Since I feel it is my civic duty to cast a well-informed vote for these positions as well, I wanted to at least have some idea who deserved my support.

Of course, there’s a big gap between meaning to do something, and actually doing it. As of this morning, I hadn’t done any research, so I spent about half an hour today trying to look up the various candidates on the internet in hopes that some of them stood out as vote-worthy.

Some candidates don’t exactly have a large presence on the web. For some of the senatorial candidates, the best I could find was a YouTube video of them talking about themselves and their beliefs. (In some cases, I’m not sure they realized the camera was on.) Thankfully, for less prestigious positions like Board of Education, the local papers did a decent job of summarizing the candidates’ positions.

Once I decided who to vote for, I headed to the polling place. I was hoping that by going in the middle of the day, I’d avoid waiting in long lines, and I was correct. One thing that did surprise me was the use of paper ballots. Instead of a computer touch screen, I actually had to fill in a circle with a pen. The future is not here, I guess?

I turned in my ballot, put on my obligatory “I voted” sticker, and headed back to work, satisfied that I did my part to keep our democratic system working smoothly.

Now I just hope that all my candidates win so that I don’t have to move to Canada.

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was V and the topic was “Voting.”

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It seems that I’ve fallen ill. My throat is sore, my glands are swollen, and I’ve developed an inability to speak in anything besides a whisper or a quiet, coarse mumble. I was hoping that I was immune to throat-based sicknesses, but this is proof that I am still susceptible.

A little over ten years ago, I chose to have my tonsils removed. It really wasn’t a difficult decision. I was experiencing increasingly frequent bouts of tonsillitis, which not only left me feeling sick much of the time, but it was also affecting my sleep. My swollen throat caused me to snore, which was a poor combination with a fiance who has an irrational hatred of the sound of snoring.

I consulted an ear-nose-throat specialist who pretty much cringed when he looked down my throat. In my experience, it isn’t a good sign when a doctor cringes, but he said that the problem could be rectified with a simple tonsillectomy.

I agreed, and for the low cost of a $100 insurance co-pay, I was tonsil-free a few weeks later. The worst part of the procedure may have been the immediate aftermath.  As I sat in the recovery area, the surgeon described the operation to Mrs. Cutter. When he likened the process to cutting through wood, Mrs. Cutter began to feel faint, and nearly passed out. Naturally, all the nurses turned their attention to her, while I was left dazed and nauseous. I also threw up because my body doesn’t deal well with anesthesia.

Once healed, I was hoping to be the picture of perfect health. I thought the absence of tonsils might make me near invincible. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Too many sleepless nights and too much exposure to small children has prevented that from happening. But at least until now I’ve managed to avoid strep throat and other tonsil related illnesses.

I’m no longer hoping I can avoid getting sick. Now, I’m just hoping that my voice comes back.

This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was U and the topic was “Unhealthy.”

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