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Gather ye pitchforks while ye may, aka thoughts on parenting

May 10, 2012

This may not be popular. If you think you may need torches or pitchforks, go ahead and grab them. I’ll be here.

Back? Oh goody.

By today’s standards it seems as though I should earn a trophy just for showing up and writing this post.

I don’t know that I’ve ever won a trophy because back in my day, you know when we wore banana peels for shoes and walked backwards on our hands uphill to school a billion miles naked each way, you had to EARN trophies. And, frankly, the things I was good at didn’t come with trophies. I did audition for cheerleading but people that were far more coordinated than I made the squad. Was I bummed out? Sure. But I was mainly in it for the outfits. So rather than having my mother whack somebody in the knee with a bat or suing under the pretense of life isn’t fair because I am short and uncoordinated, I found other things I was good at and left the bouncing and perkiness to people more suited for it. I realized my interests, and talents, were in art and writing and journalism. And I love those things–though they do come with far drabber ensembles than pleated cheerleading skirts. And I don’t get to regularly shake pom poms. (I DO get to wear lots of pj pants.)

Point? I don’t believe in “a” for effort or a prize for participation. It’s okay to NOT be good at everything. Nobody is. Life isn’t fair. But if you blow sunshine up a kid’s ass and tell him he’s going to play in the Major Leagues when he can’t catch a ball or swing a bat…you may be sparing his feelings in the short time but are you really doing him a favor?

Bratchild is allowed to try anything she wants to do with the understanding that we don’t take on more than two activities a year and if she starts it, she has to finish it. I’m a firm believer in kids needing time to play and eating in the car nightly as you race from ball field to piano isn’t being a kid. She twirls baton and, until this year, took dance lessons. Dance? Not her forte. She has a leg turning inwards condition that has an official medical name I can’t remember that makes toe pointing and things tough for her but, bless her heart, that kid can twirl a baton and would like to light some on fire a la Suzanne Sugarbaker. (THAT’S the night the lights went out in Georgia. Sidenote? I miss Dixie Carter.)

Recently she auditioned for a play that a local children’s theatre was going to perform and, to put it simply, she didn’t make it. The second she got up there and read her bit, I knew she wasn’t going to make it. We are not quiet people. I have been told I have two volume levels: playground and arena. I can speak to a large group of people sans microphone. Bratchild inherited this “skill” from me. She has always had parts and solos in her school plays but, they know her and know what she can do. In an audition with strangers, you’re not afforded that luxury and she simply wasn’t  loud enough. It was like she thought they were all of a sudden playing the quiet game. Truly.  But I was honestly proud of her for trying.

When they announced call backs and she wasn’t one of them, she immediately got a bad attitude and started to complain. They don’t know what they’re missing, I’m amazing, I guess they just didn’t like me, why would they want HER and not me, etc. I stopped her and told her that, yes, she is AMAZING and yes, she is TALENTED but, in this case, she wasn’t loud enough and they couldn’t hear her. When she tried to get an attitude with me, I said, “Look. You can either be a sore loser and blame the world or you can learn from this, move on and know what you need to work on for next time.” I don’t think you always have to BE the best. I do think you should DO your best, have some fun and maybe learn something.

Some other parents I know thought this was harsh of me and wondered why I just didn’t tell her the casting people were stupid or mistaken. I guess I don’t subscribe to the viewpoint of sugar-coating. If you sugarcoat everything, how is a child going to learn a work ethic? How are they going to learn from their mistakes and be functional, well-adjusted adults that don’t have to go to the bathroom in pairs and have someone wipe their ass? At Bratchild’s school, they aren’t even allowed to have run of the mill chapstick. It’s considered medicine. Really? You want children to be the future leaders of the country BUT they can’t be trusted to moisturize their own lips? Yes. I believe in protecting our children and teaching them and helping them grow but I can’t take much more of this aww shucks life isn’t fair, let’s have everyone win and all go for ice cream.

Fact. We are not always going to be the best. Life isn’t fair. There is ALWAYS going to be someone better, smarter, prettier, hungrier and more determined than we are. On the converse: there is ALWAYS going to be someone worse off than you–they aren’t as smart or aren’t educated or don’t have nice things. Perhaps instead of whining and lamenting, we focus on our strengths, pull ourselves up, make our own magic and use that position to help others. A little gratitude and gumption never hurt anyone.

If a kid can’t run without tripping over her own feet, instead of telling her she’s going to be Olympian and making everyone miserable–help her find her true gift. Maybe she’s awesome at science and will cure cancer one day. Maybe not. One thing I DO know is you won’t find out if you’re beating her up on the track field.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Jenny permalink
    May 10, 2012 7:01 AM

    Love this one Amy! Hopefully, the majority of us, sick of this entitlement crap that is ruining today’s youth, can turn this around!!! Your daughter has an amazing mom!

  2. May 10, 2012 7:03 AM

    I do not at all think that you are out of line here. My husband doesn’t even let our three-year old beat him in the “races” they have in the yard. My mother was nearly brought to tears over my husband’s “cruelty.” Our son used to cry every time he didn’t win. But, he doesn’t cry anymore. He tries harder. We didn’t tell him to do this, but he got there naturally. My husband has subscribed to the idea that one day when the kid really beats him, it will be the greatest victory of his life.

  3. Angie Smith permalink
    May 10, 2012 8:32 AM

    AMEN!!! Well said Miz Amy.

  4. May 10, 2012 9:04 AM

    Another AMEN!

  5. Momma permalink
    May 10, 2012 12:19 PM

    My Darlin’ Girl, you make me very proud. I have always been amazed by you but this Blam with your thoughts out there for the world to see makes me glow with pride and love for the woman and mother that you are. A way big “atta-my girl” and know your Momma loves you, you are my beloved child in whom I am well pleased.

  6. gigi927 permalink
    May 14, 2012 1:17 AM

    Amen to everything you said. I’ve written a few times myself on variations on this theme. The best thing we can do sometimes is let our kids fail. Protecting them from failure only leads to a helpless child who has a false sense of his own strengths…and rue the day when the bubble bursts.

  7. suzanne permalink
    May 16, 2012 12:28 PM

    Bravo! Aptly put!

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