Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn
It’s coming to an end—those long, summer days spent by lake or beach or pool. Summer is, in so many ways, somehow a friendlier time of year for many of us. We are released from the endless cycle of school run, to committee meeting, to sports, theater, and whatnot. And our children feel it, too. Somehow, during the summer—maybe because so many of us are gone, maybe because without the rigid structure of the playground or playing field, the characters that make up the grand theater of our lives are shaken up—the rules change. We are more free to make plans with people we really like. To have barbeques and not worry about bedtimes. To be our authentic selves.
And now, cometh the fall. And with it, cometh The Rules that we temporarily—happily—suspended. But this year, I have a suggestion: Why not (daring thought, this) take those carefree lessons of summer on into the autumn with us? Why not try to break a few of our own bad habits? This season, as go the leaves, let’s—at least try—to change, too.
Let’s be honest about something. (It’s all right—we’re all friends here.) The North Shore is a wonderful, marvelous, magical place to live, filled with opportunities to thrive and excel in any measure of ways. But…And, often, it’s a very big but—it is also a super-super-competitive place to live. Here, many times kids have to choose, in third or fourth grade, what sport they’re going to play “seriously,” because otherwise that travel ship will have sailed. Kids in middle school practice until 10 o’clock at night, or at 5:30 in the morning! Now, I know that this is simply the way things are, and that there’s really no point bewailing them (although the makers of Race to Nowhere would disagree…), but what I think we as parents can do is to relieve some of the pressure on our own athletes, in our own homes.
So often I see parents screaming, screaming at their kids—be it on the field, or in the rink, or in the pool—and, often again, it’s the parents who get aggressive, either with their kid or with another child’s parents. This, friends, is no way to behave. I get that sports are important to you. I understand that you want your child to be successful—we all do! That’s why we’re there, week after week, after all. But let’s all promise to try, as this fall season comes upon us, with its cycle of two-a-days and travel rosters and orange quarters, to remember that—at the end of the day—this is not about you. This is about your children. Having fun. Playing a game. This season, let’s try to model that old adage—let’s try, all of us, to be good sports.
When I was growing up, there was a group of girls. Mean girls. In fact, the meanest girls. (They’re still mean—we had a reunion recently and there they were, loud and proud, exclusionary as ever.) They had a name for themselves. (I know! Who does that—what are we, The Outsiders?) They called themselves The Clique and sewed their names on a little pillow that was passed, ceremoniously, from home to home. Now, clearly, my name was not on that pillow—and now, I’m very pleased that that is the case: I am a nicer person because of it.
But, un-shockingly at the time, it was very, very hard. You were either in or you were out. No grey. And recently, I’ve noticed—as my child has gotten older and more socially aware—that this pecking order still very much exists. But, and this to me is the disturbing thing, it exists, not so much naturally within kids’ perceptions of one another, but through the parents, in their perpetuation of these cliques for the social “betterment” of their child.
Parents who volunteer to coach, and then cherry-pick the “right” teams. Parents who organize “regular” group playdates with a single cast of characters. Parents who join clubs and boards and committees to cozy up to other “right” parents. This way, friends, lies madness. Here’s a revolutionary thought: How about we use our vast reserves of time and attention to try to make sure that our kids are happy—not socially “higher,” but happy. That all kids are included. No matter what. Let’s leave deciding who’s in and who’s out where it belongs: in the schoolyard.
Let’s just admit it, shall we? People gossip. They do. And, often, it’s not even meant in a malicious or hurtful way—sometimes, you just have a really great story to tell, and you’ve got to tell someone. I am the first to admit that I have been guilty of this myself.
But gossip has an interesting way of crossing borders, of reaching far beyond the ears of the single person to whom you entrusted your news. After all, you told it, didn’t you? And you can’t always blame the gossiper—whose motives might, in fact, be perfectly friendly and innocent. Remember, as someone famous once said (and if I could remember who it was, I’d give them credit), if you really want to keep a secret, you must tell no one. And you know what? Anonymous was right. Once a story is out there, even if it’s just been told to one teeny-tiny single person, it’s not within your control.
So remember that news travels exponentially (especially in these days of email, Facebook, texts, and Twitter), and that what you said may not be what someone else repeats—remember that old telephone game? This season, let’s stop and think before we repeat. So often, we’ll be glad we do—and, after all, do our lives really need any more emotional clutter…especially someone else’s? Let’s try to cast off what doesn’t concern us and focus on what does: ourselves, our homes, and our family.