Sibling rivalry. It’s a thing, we all know it. My brother Karl is almost 6 years younger than I am, and I will never forget how upset I was when he was finally old enough to join us on hunting and fishing outings. Once he started joining, I knew that meant he’d be tagging along for the foreseeable future.
My dad always tried to find ways to keep things interesting with competition. I’m not sure if this was to keep us from fighting and bickering with each other (because we could be so good at that) or to help prevent looming boredom, but he always told us we were in competition. Whether it was seeing who could catch the first fish, the most fish, who spotted the first deer when we were out driving around in the evening, who shot the first turkey that season; there was always some sort of competition between my brother and I. Over time, we just started competing with each other for fun without Dad provoking it, whether it be at fishing derbies or out shooting at the Rod n’ Gun’s annual youth day and comparing targets. I can’t thank my dad enough for this.
Now I am not a parent, but I will tell you I cannot stand the current “everyone gets a trophy” mentality I see these days. Before you start in on me about how this makes kids feel included and such just hear me out from this perspective. Having this ongoing competition with my brother created a different mindset for me as a kid and taught us a lot of valuable lessons. Keep in mind, some of these lessons were easier to swallow as a kid than others, but ultimately they did nothing but create a sense of confidence. A sense of confidence and a sense of pride. Even if I wasn’t always happy of my own performance, I was happy to cheer on my brother and so equally proud of his accomplishments.
Winning doesn’t mean you get a prize. We knew that just because there was some sort of competition between us, that did not mean there was a prize. Usually it simply meant until the next time where there would be a new challenge, winning meant we had bragging rights – to a point. If there were prizes involved, and we lost, we lost. Plain and simple.
Just because you lose, that doesn’t make you a loser. Okay, so yeah bragging rights are great, but just because you lost for catching a smaller fish or whatever the race was that day, didn’t mean Dad was any less proud of you. It just meant that at that time, the other person had the luck of the day. We also were constantly reminded about everything that we gained during that day’s experience even if we didn’t “win.” You know, those once in a lifetime experiences, up close and personal with nature that you can’t get from sitting home on the couch watching TV.
If you don’t try, you will never have the chance to win. I knew that I wasn’t always going to win, but that if I didn’t try like hell, there was no way I would even be in the running. We were never pressured to go on these outings if we didn’t want to, but we knew if we didn’t go then the other one had a leg up. We knew that if we wanted to win, we had to compete.
If you try your best, then be proud. As I have quoted before, and will again, my dad loves the saying “sometimes you get ‘em sometimes you don’t.” If my brother and I had a nickel for every time we’ve heard it we’d be rich. Both of our parents never ceased to make sure that we knew if we tried our best, in a way we were proud of, then it didn’t matter who won. I think the biggest example I have of this is not letting my ethics of a shot be overcome by my desire to win; we knew that preserving our ethics and morals were more important than “winning.”
I know that these lessons shaped us in a way as who we are today as adults, and not only in the realms of hunting and fishing. I also truly believe that most of these lessons are lost on the majority of today’s youth. Again, I am not a parent, so you can take what I say and my opinions with a grain of salt. However I think that it’s imperative that if you have a youth in your life that you are sharing your wisdom with lessons like these go hand in hand with lessons in ethics and respecting the animals that we harvest.
Try throwing some friendly competition into the mix, you may be surprised at how much fun the kids have with it, and more so, the lessons they’ll learn. Food for thought.