Hot Chocolate and Losing

We plowed into a wall of powdered snow and came to a stop. We walked off the distance from the tip of our sled to the edge of the shed. Our goal was to touch the shed. The distance measured five feet.

We ran back up the hill.

I laid face down in the sled. He jumped on my back. We pushed off and tore down the hill.

Three feet.

We ran back up the hill.

I laid face down in the sled. He jumped on my back. We pushed off and tore down the hill.

Two feet.

We did it again.

1 foot.

We did it again and again and again.

1 foot. 1 foot. 1 foot.

We did it one more time.

1 foot.

We got up. We brushed off the snow. We paused. The street lights were coming on. Our extremities were beginning to numb. And, the innermost layers of our clothing were wet.

“This is it. One last run” I said.

I looped the yellow nylon rope around my hand and we walked up the hill.

I laid face down. He climbed on my back.

I moved the sled forward and back to pack down the track.

I dug my gloves deep into the snow. I pushed us into our starting position. I fixed my eyes on the shed ahead. His mitten covered hands tightened their grip on the sides of my jacket. And, then he whispered “Daddy, what happens if we don’t make it?”

The volume of noise around us turned down. Snowflakes slowed in their descent. This was a moment of consequence.

He was not asking “Do we really go home?” He knew we were heading home.

He was asking “What happens?”

He was asking “Is it possible to work so hard and put in so much time and still not achieve your goal? How do you deal with such an outcome? How do you process it? How do you move forward? How do you go on?”

I measured my words carefully.

“We will just have to come back tomorrow” I replied.

“Are you ready?” I asked.


We shoved off.

I paddled feverishly.

We hit a bump.

I dipped my hand into the snow to make a course correction.

The shed was coming up.

I lowered myself deeper into the sled.

We rammed into the bank of snow separating us from our target. I peered through my ice-laden eyelashes. I reached out with my hand, lengthened my fingers, and…a few minutes later we were back at home.

Our faces were red. Our bodies were tired. And, our toes were pin-pricking back to warmth. We were drinking hot chocolate, laughing and telling Mommy all about the few inches of darkness that separated my fingertips from the edge of the shed.

Do I wish we would have reached our goal?


Am I all right that we didn’t?


We set a goal. It was achievable. We kept going for it. We did not reach it. The clock ran out. And, we came up short. But, he is a privileged human being. He is going to win, probably a lot. Maybe more than he should. Indeed, I have this nagging suspicion that there’s too much winning going on around him. So, I want him to know how to lose.

I want him to know how to deal with it.

I want him to know that there’s life after a loss.

It’s not a big deal.

It’s not to be feared.

You still get to drink hot chocolate.


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Thanks. – shawn

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