Photo by Alex Perez on Unsplash
There are certain situations in our lives that all have a sort of cadence to them. At a basketball game for example, when someone makes a basket, the expected sound to follow is cheering or clapping. If a traffic light turns green, and the cars don’t move, you anticipate the sound of a horn. Similarly, when the end of a play arrives, the actors are expected to do a curtain call, bowing and curtseying for the roaring crowd. If these are the norms on expected autopilot in our brains, what does it mean when we witness them changing?
The Watching Dead At Basketball Games
Last year both my boys played on basketball teams. My youngest son, then nine years old, was on the Catholic school team. His twelve year old brother was on both the school team and a recreational league . When attending both my younger son’s school games and my older son’s recreational ones, I noticed the most bizarre phenomenon: there was little to no clapping. Not only was there no clapping, scoring a basket was met with the sound of the ball hitting the court and that was about it.
Once I became aware of this strange thing, I would go out of my way to clap for every boy on the team who had a solid block or scored a basket. At one point, the gentleman sitting next to me asked if I had multiple sons on the team.
I told him no, and that I chose to cheer for every kid on both teams because someone needed to root for these kids. I expressed my shock at the constant silence from the spectating parents. He pondered what I said for a moment and after taking notice, looked at me with raised brows. From then on he and his wife sometimes clapped with me. This felt like a small victory- in the weirdest of ways. How did they not notice before? My pointing out the obvious happened to be the smelling salts they needed. Too bad everyone else never got on board.
My husband always jokes that he likes to be the first one to start the wave of clapping wherever we go: school plays, talent shows, school music concerts, etc. He brings his hands together forcefully during silent moments and as loud as possible. Everyone usually follows suit. He looks like a giddy Eddie Haskell every time he starts the chain reaction. Too bad he works on Saturdays and had to miss most of these games, the teams could have used his powerful claps.
In my determination to get the zombies out of their staring catatonic state, I tried my husband’s loud, fast clapping in hopes to start a flurry of thunderous applause for each score. This attempt was to no avail.
As for the recreational league my twelve year old was on, I’m convinced the people were cold and dead inside.
I keep asking myself what the hell would cause that across not only a school league, but also a recreational league at the same time? Were parents all in a funk from the Covid experience? Were they in a far away land mentally? What was it? I guess I’ll never know.
This year, I’ve since been to a new recreational league of games with my ten year old and am happy to report the cheering is ever present and loud. It feels like the silence from the stands last Spring and Summer was a strange dream.
The Prom Lock In & The Feelings Police
Another perplexing phenomenon is the sudden over-the-top rules inflicted upon high school dances. For years and years high school dances meant being able to arrive and depart whenever you wanted. Apparently, that’s not the case as of late.
I was told by an acquaintance that kids attending the prom at the local high school had to be locked in. The school said the purpose was to avoid the attendees leaving to do bad things in their cars i.e.; making out, drinking, or drugs.
Has my generation of parents become this overbearing, controlling group of dictators? What happen to trusting your kids until they break that trust? What happened to letting them live their lives and make mistakes? People have to fail sometimes or they cannot grow and learn. Overall, how about giving these kids some much deserved freedom after being locked down for a year and a half? It appears we’re trending in a scary direction.
There is a chance that these changes to dances are not nationwide. It could just be happening in the area I live in since the school board became obsessive on kids being allowed to have fun. As far as wanting to lock children down and mask them against Covid forever, that was our Board Of Education’s modus operandi for a year and a half. I’m so curious to know who decided it was also a good idea to literally lock the kids in the high school for prom?
Another change to the common high school experience is the removal of the prom or homecoming court. The “court” is a group of students selected by their peers who have the opportunity to be crowned class King or Queen. It’s a way to highlight those in the school who are exemplary classmates, friends, humans.
There is the opinion out there that it hurts feelings and makes kids feel less than to host such events. Many say it’s a simple popularity contest – nothing more or less.
Let me draw the comparison here between why this is the same line of thinking as everyone deserves a trophy. It doesn’t matter that Billy practiced soccer for 10 hours a weekend and 5 hours during the week to become the best and win the game. He can’t get the trophy because it would hurt Johnny’s feelings. The same Johnny who had no interest in practicing and who was playing the game for fun. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no shame in doing any sport for fun. The journey and the winning and losing IS the fun! Ok maybe more winning than losing, but you catch my drift.
Bottom line is let’s not ding the kids who work so hard at their craft and eventually win as a result. They sign up for competitive sports for that reason. Let the winners get the damn trophy.
How does this apply to the school court reference from earlier? It starts with nominating then, in turn, rewarding the kids who set the example. I don’t want to teach my sons to do the bare minimum in life. Ideally, I’d like them to spend time with and look up to the kids who inspire and motivate them to be their best selves. It would also be nice for them to set their egos aside and root for another classmate whom they respect and admire. We could all use setting our egos aside from time to time to lift others up. It’s a nice life lesson.
It’s always been strange to me that movies depict the winners as assholes who are experts in the field of bullying , however, in my experience, that was not the case. I can remember some of the upperclassmen who were on the court as people I looked up to. They were my friends and showed kindness with ease, had reasonable grades, excelled in sports, theater, or belonged to several clubs. Some were shy and some were mega extroverts. One thing was for sure, it was a good mixture of decent human beings from various backgrounds; quite the opposite of just about every high school movie ever made.
So why toss the baby out with the bathwater ? My guess is this was done away with by the feelings police. They probably thought, “Well, we simply cannot have these contests anymore because someone will feel left out.“
May be these decision makers were feeling protective over their kids feeling unpopular. Honestly, I believe they could be shooting themselves in the foot. If this is how you feel – give your child more credit than that. It’s a wide pool of people voting, and your child might be in the mix. Also, ask yourselves is it the end of the world for our kids to have a negative emotion about something? Check out the movie Inside Out for an excellent depiction of this.
It’s my opinion that this type of parental thinking promotes mediocrity. If kids go through life getting trophies for not winning, or are unable to be on court at school, or if there are no longer awards because it may cause hurt feelings – what does that do to our society? It makes people feel like there’s no sense in trying. If there’s no incentive for going the extra mile at school to be kind, get good grades, belong to clubs, be respectful towards adults, who’s to say it doesn’t send kids in the opposite direction? If there’s nothing to try for, what’s the point?
Think for a moment of the kids who don’t have a great home life. If there’s no one at home cheering them on and no way at school to shine in some way, what’s the easiest and quickest fix they turn to today? I’m sure you guessed it- the big, unadulterated, out of control dopamine machine called social media. A false promise that lures them in and spits them out on the daily. As we all know, social media is a fake, digital world instead of a fun, living one that requires hard work and real, tangible rewards and experiences.
Even as adults we like to have a carrot to work towards in addition to feeling a sense of accomplishment. If we work hard, we get a raise or a good bonus. If we sell enough widgets, we get that promotion. If we save up enough money with self discipline we can take that lavish vacation. If we meditate regularly, we teach ourselves how to manage stress better, if we train for a race, we can fundraise and give to a charity. The examples are endless; adults like to feel like they’re doing something good for their family, inner circle, or community as a form of personal fulfillment.
So let the kids have fun. Trust them before locking them inside of schools. Give them incentives and opportunities to win trophies or awards for being exceptional at something. Allow them to stand before their peers and wear a crown for 5 minutes in the name of being a good human. Clap for them at a basketball game! Give them real life experiences to look forward to instead of driving them further into a sub-par digital one.