As I was laying in bed this morning trying to find a good reason I should NOT go for a run, I was scrolling through my news feed to see what had happened in the world since I had gone to sleep. Much of what I saw were old stories from yesterday, and stories that really had nothing to do with “news”. Have you ever noticed how Huffington Post seems so obsessed with penises, vaginas, boobs, butts and sex of all sorts (gay, bi, hetero)? Seriously, it’s like a bunch of adolescent kids are running the joint. Today alone, in their main news feed are the following stories: “Performance Artist Does Impromptu Reenactment of The World’s Raciest Painting (of a vagina)”, “LOOK: 10 Buildings That Look Like Penises”, “Masculine Men Do Not Have Sex With Other Men”,
Kendall Jenner Poses Topless For Interview Magazine”, “Balloon Sex Really Blows For Kinky Clowns”, and “Ireland Baldwin Spotted Kissing Rumored Girlfriend”. Let me say, this is an incomplete list of the headlines. Yes, incomplete. There were at least five that I skipped over. Can you imagine, what with all of the REAL news happening in the world, what the rest of the world must think of us, if they see these headlines on their feed? We must care more sex and body parts than we do about humanitarian issues or political issues! GAWD. We all have parts. We all use them. Get. Over. It. Are you three?
AnyWHO… that was not really what got me this morning. It was this story about a little horse race called the Belmont Stakes. Let me just preface this by saying that I know NOTHING about horse races. Really, less than nothing. Except that there are horses and jockeys and they go in circle and someone wins. Oh, and that the person that owns the horse is NOT the person who rides the horse in the race. I do know that. So I am clearly no judge of how the races are set up or how this may have been changed over the years and how it’s impacted horses, jockeys and owners. But evidently, something in the current set-up of horse racing has made it nearly impossible to get a Triple Crown (one horse winning the Preakness Stakes, The Kentucky Derby and the Blemont Stakes- I googled that, btw). The last Triple Crown winner was in 1978. Well, the part of the story that got my attention was when one of the co-owners of one of the horses issued a “harsh rebuke” to the winner of the Belmont Stakes as well as “the entire world of horse racing”. He says, among other things, and I quote, “I’m 61 years old and I’ll never see in my lifetime another Triple Crown winner because of the way they do this.” “It’s not fair to these horses who have been in the game since Day One.”
Wait. Not fair to the HORSES? Since when has THAT been a consideration? That was my first thought. Wouldn’t the horses rather be out in a field eating grass, hanging out with all of their horse friends, running for the joy of it, instead of competing? I don’t know. I haven’t asked a horse, but, ‘it’s not fair to the horses” seems like a cover up to me. I feel like what he meant to say was “It’s not fair to ME! I should have won!” and I do understand that feeling. I have raised three kids and all of them were four at one time. I think that this story creates strong evidence in what I have been saying for years, and that is this:
We, well meaning parents, are creating children (who then turn into adults) who cannot handle not ‘winning’ or worse, who don’t even work at competing, because they are so used to just having everything handed to them. You see this in youth sports, and it’s been a progression.
When I was a kid and in sports, I’d go after school, or on weekends, by myself, walking or riding my bike, participate in practice and or a game and get myself home. I never once had a parent at a game (although there were other parents there) and there were NO parents at practices. At the end of the season, if you were in high school and you had participated in enough of the games, you might get a school “Letter”. If not, you got… <gasp> NOTHING. There were no protests by parents or boycotts of the sports. The coach did not receive angry emails (never mind that email didn’t exist back then) or phone calls.
Fast forward to when my kids played in youth sports, we would drive our kid to practice and then would come the dilemma for me. It seemed that several parents had decided that they didn’t have a life themselves, so they would stay and watch the practices. I did have a life (and other kids!) and so I really didn’t feel like watching T-ball practice <yawn> while trying to keep my younger daughter entertained enough to not throw a fit, but the pressure was on, as was the judgement. I mean what kind of parent does not stay to watch kids practice trying to catch a ball or trying to swing a bat. Um, this one. I one time dated a baseball player (high school) for about two weeks. That was as interested as I’ve ever been with baseball… Then on game days, one parent brought snacks & drinks to each game and the kids would play the game and hang out afterward eating their snacks and drinking their drinks, right before going home to DINNER. This never made sense to me, as I was fairly certain my kid could survive the 5 minute drive home without dying of thirst or starving to death, but some mom, somewhere had decided that the kids needed a little reward for ‘playing so hard’ and so she started a trend that other mothers felt compelled to follow. This was also when I realized that we were going to have an “end of the year party” to again celebrate “how hard the kids played”. Parents were asked to pitch in $25 to go toward a party and trophies for each of the kids. Really? My kid gets a trophy? But I have pictures of him during games picking at the grass or looking at airplanes. Some pictures with him with his baseball mitt ON HIS HEAD. You are right. He has EARNED a trophy.
Fast forward about ten years, and the whole situation has further ‘improved’. My youngest child played soccer through her school, complete with snacks after games, parents watching practices and end of the season parties, trophies AND certificates (because why have one if you can have BOTH?) and then a few months later, she tells me that her school is having “Awards Night” and are we going? I ask her if she is getting some sort of award and she says, yes, that she is getting an award for playing soccer. Oh, soccer. Wait. What? Soccer? Didn’t you already get a certificate, pizza party AND a trophy for playing soccer? Why do you need another award, and what possible other award is there to give you? This is not the World Cup. She said she didn’t know, but that she’d received a note saying she was getting an award for playing soccer, so… So this is where my AWESOME parenting skills kicked in. It went something like this:
“I am nearly 100% sure that you signed up to play soccer because you LIKE soccer. I didn’t go to your practices (bad mom) but I went to nearly ALL of your games, including the ones where it poured down rain. I watched you HAVE FUN and then get a snack afterwards because you PLAYED so hard. Then I pay entirely too much money to eat pizza that tastes like cardboard, a certificate that you recycled and a trophy that is not currently displayed in your room AND we drove 45 minutes each way to the furthest freaking pizza place in the city because some brilliant mom thought it would make it “more special for the kids” if we ate somewhere we don’t normally eat, never mind that there is this little thing called WORK and RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC that made it impossible to get across town at the designated time of 6pm, so we got there late, had to sit at different tables and ate COLD cardboard pizza. Now, I am supposed to be excited about spending two hours at Awards Night so that you can get another reward for playing soccer? I don’t think so. Your “reward” SHOULD have been that you had fun doing something YOU WANTED TO DO. And if that wasn’t enough, than the free (to you) snacks after the games should have pushed you over the edge with happiness. You played soccer. You had fun. Snacks. Pizza. Certificate. Trophy. If you need the additional reward for all of your fun that you WANTED to have, you can pick it up in the office Monday after school.
Graduation is another prime example. It used to be that we celebrated College and High School Graduation. Now it’s Kindergarten, Sixth Grade AND Eighth Grade Graduation. Again, all started by some well-meaning mom and picked up by moms everywhere. Seriously? Do we need to celebrate the fact that you graduated Kindergarten? A year of art projects and learning to stand in line? Eighth Grade? Was there another option? Were you going to drop out and get a job at 13?
I may be crazy, but I think we are looney bins for rewarding our kids for doing what they WANT to do and for doing what they are EXPECTED to do. In creating a reward and celebration for every single thing our kids do, instead of teaching them that there are just things that we do as humans because it’s part of LIFE, we are creating adults that feel like they need to protest that “it’s not fair to the horses (code: Me)”. If you’ve lived long enough to have heard about the Kentucky Derby, you’ve likely figured out that Life Is Not Fair. By trying to create a perfect bubble for our children to grow up in, we are inhibiting them from learning to deal with adversity, which they will surely face. How to be a good winner, how to be a good loser, how to let satisfaction of a job well done be a fulfilling reward. I think I may be fighting a losing battle on this one though, so I may as well go get myself a star chart! Especially if I’m going to go actually do that run I’ve been procrastinating about!