Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I guess we DO live in Fairville after all

There are times when I want to just keep my kids home until they no longer need me to tell them what to think (Like that day's ever going to come!). Sometimes it’s because I want to protect them from bad stuff and meanies, but more often it’s because I want to protect them from all the good intentions and  protection
being forced on them out there in the cold hard world.

I try, really I do, but it’s come to my attention that in my zeal to teach my children to suck it up because life is hard there are a few important rules I've neglected ~

1. We’re all winners. Even if we whine at practice or refuse to run during the game. Winning isn’t about being the best. It’s about showing up.

Example~My daughter, as you know, is playing soccer. Unfortunately her team has won zero games. Which honestly, as a parent I’m okay with (as a coach it’s killing me, but that’s another story). You can’t always be on the winning team. In fact, being a loser is a situation most us have to deal with everyday (I don't mean you guys are losers, I just mean, you know....). It might shock you to find out that, apparently, there is a movement underway to keep this a big fat secret from kids. Naturally no one wants to admit it. If you ask them they'll say “I always tell my kids, life’s not fair and blah blah blah” and a bunch more crap that they don’t mean, as evidenced by their actions, which everybody knows speak louder than words. Duh.

At the beginning of soccer season we were given an order form from the league so that each parent could buy a trophy for their child. These forms had to be turned in before our second game, way before we had any idea just how much losing the season had in store for us. There were two sizes- big and bigger. I spoke to the other parents. I asked them if we really needed trophies. I mean, what if we don’t win? And is that why we’re playing anyway, to win a prize? Couldn’t we just have a party at the end of the season and celebrate the joy of working together toward a common goal (get it?)? I’m new to all of this. Surely, I thought, these reasonable adults must feel the same way I do.

No, they did not, in fact, feel the same.  Some of them looked at me like I was nuts (I get that a lot) all agreed, trophies were a must. And snacks. Oh my good golly. One week the designated snack person forgot the fruitroll ups. I don’t know who was more upset, the kids or the parents. First thing Monday morning we got an e-mail from the team mom reminding us of the “refreshment schedule” and letting us know how disappointing it is to play your little heart out for 40 minutes and have no snack waiting for you when the game is over.

Deep inside I know that David Beckham is in it for the Rice Krispy Treats.

2. Bad stuff only happens on TV and in video games. And if by some chance bad stuff should happen to actually happen to us, we should try not to talk about it. LOOK AWAY!

Example~ Our school district has a great program called Art Masterpiece. Parent volunteers go into classrooms and present a work of art from a famous painter and tell the kids about it. It’s an excellent way to introduce the kids to a variety of artists and styles of painting. But… (you had to have seen that coming) during the training they ask us to try to avoid discussing the artists’ lives (or deaths) if they could be considered controversial.

As I see it there are a couple of problems with this approach- A. We’re talking about artists. They’re odd (mostly) and depressed (mainly) and B. Kids want to know why. They’re curious little buggers by nature. Without fail I am asked by every class, why did the artist paint this, and how did he or she die. I do understand the district needing to be cautious, and of course I think you need to know your audience, there are things you can say to 6th graders that you wouldn’t want to say to a kindergarten class. I’m not a complete fool. So far I’ve been able to skim over the death question. Until last week. The painting I was presenting was a Rothko. In my mind there is no way to separate Mark Rothko’s state of mind from the way he painted. We talked about his depression and the fact that his work becomes progressively darker, but when the inevitable question of how he died was asked the teacher quickly shot me a look and interrupted me to say “We don’t know. Why don’t you look it up with your parents?”

Really? There’s nothing wrong with having them look it up with their parents, but would it have been so awful to tell them that he had killed himself?

Let me tell you a little story. Yesterday my daughter told me that a girl in her class told everyone that her mother is a stripper and said she could show them how to pole dance if they wanted her to (thankfully they all said no and played tag instead). The thing is, my daughter wasn’t asking me what a stripper was, she already knew, and she knows she doesn’t want to be one. Kids understand more than we give them credit for. Finding out that a man took his life because he was mentally ill should not, and probably would not come as a surprise to them. Not everyone dies from natural causes and old age.

3. Planning ahead is not a requirement. If by some stroke of terrible bad luck you are NOT a winner don’t worry. We won't bring it up, because you shouldn't dwell on the negative things life throws your way and best of all-You can have a do-over!

Example~Last year my son had a math teacher who let all of the kids retake any test as many times as they needed until they had the grade they wanted, and all homework had to be turned in not the next day but-BY THE END OF THE QUARTER!! I wish this were the exception, but unfortunately, I have heard there are several teachers at the Jr. High with this same policy. Imagine my son’s shock (and awe) when this year his math teacher was one of those old fashioned turn your work in on time and study for your tests sticklers. I’m not making any excuses for my kid, but in the immortal words of Dr. Phil~ “You teach people how to treat you.” Or in other words, honestly, why on earth would any kid turn something in on time if he could turn it in at the last minute with no penalty?

Look, I want my kids to feel good about themselves and to be protected from really awful things and you betcha I want them to keep trying if at first they don’t succeed, but I also believe that they need to know that success is generally a result of hard work and things don’t always go they way we hope they will and above all, that their actions have consequences.

Most importantly I hope they learn to sing a happy little tune, because I never did and I think it would come in pretty handy.


Keenie Beanie said...

A wise friend of mine once posted this as her facebook status: ... thinks that growing up is hard and sometimes wants to shield her children from anything difficult. I realize, though, that learning to deal with life is part of living it well. I just always want our home to be a soft place to land and a haven from the challenges of the outside world.

I've loved this summary of the balance good parenting requires. Sounds like you've achieved that state too.

Alexis said...

The mere fact that these kids are asking how these artists die would imply to me that they are aware that not all artists die of old age, especially if they ask every time.

The trophy thing just makes me sigh. We're all winners but we need proof of it in the form of trophies? I worry about these things...a lot.