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It’s Not Fair, But It’s OK

Everyone doesn't come in first place, get to be class president or chosen to be prom queen. Life lessons are learned young. Here's the latest example of a child rewarded for having a temper tantrum.

So I saw this article online about a child at a Yankees game who didn’t get to catch a ball tossed to the crowd during the 8th inning and started crying. OK, things like that happen. It turns out another couple did catch the ball. They felt great about it. Again, this is pretty normal. What isn’t normal, in my view, is when the play-by-play announcer, Michael Kay, reprimanded the couple who caught the ball and called them greedy for not giving it to the crying 3-year-old boy.

"Ahh, they can't give it to the kid," the commentator stated over the loudspeaker.

Wait now, back track, rewind.

Where does it say that any person catching a baseball must turn it over to a crying child?

To make matters worse, another person in the stands tossed the child a ball they had caught, to make him feel better.

Yes, I said to make matters worse.

Growing up I always learned that not everyone catches the ball. Not everyone is picked for the starring role in a play. Not everyone is invited to someone’s birthday party, and not everyone gets first place. That’s life.

When you are an adult, if someone else wins the lottery and you cry, does that mean that the lottery commission is obligated to pay you equal winnings? No.

When you go on a job interview, and the woman next to you gets the job and you don’t, if you throw a fit, does that mean that the company has to hire you, too?  Absolutely not.

Life, is not fair.

When parents and society condone that if a child gets angry, cries, or throws a tantrum, they deserve whatever they didn’t get in the first place, that’s saying it’s ok to act and be spoiled.

When my daughter started school and I found out that a child cannot distribute invitations to a birthday party in their classroom unless they invite the whole class, I shook my head. Really? Well, maybe there are some parents that are fortunate enough to be able to have either the room or the finances to invited 20-something children to their child’s birthday party, but many parents do not have this ability–nor do they want to have this kind of a party.

Yes, we can circumvent those rules and send invitations in good old-fashioned snail mail to a child’s friends, or even via email ask if they’d like to come, but what are we teaching our children? 

Teaching kids that everyone is included all of the time does not prepare them for the "real world"–after they are done with school.

I’ll give you another example–youth sports. There’s a winning team and a losing team.  Winners get the trophies. At least that's how it was when I was a child. Now, no ... both teams get to take home trophies because otherwise the losing team’s feelings would be hurt.

Hurt feelings and disappointment is no fun, I’ll grant you that. But it also teaches children valuable lessons and learning that it’s OK to not be No. 1 all of the time and it’s OK not to come in first place. You can still have fun.

As a parent, if my child didn’t catch the baseball at the game, I would say “Well, maybe you will next time.” As a matter of fact, I have done just that at Somerset Patriots’ baseball games.

Doesn’t it make it more special when you catch that ball on your own? If someone hands it to you, what did you do for it? Get lucky? Cry? It can’t possibly give you the same feeling of pride to receive something just because you opened your big mouth.

As a byproduct, the couple that thought that they were making the 3-year-old boy feel better by giving him the ball they caught, just became unknowing accomplices in teaching this child that it’s OK to cry and have a tantrum when you don’t get your way, because if you do it, you will be rewarded for it.

Why not teach this little boy that baseball is fun because you are watching the game and having a great time with family and friends? He is learning that going to a game is only fun if you catch a ball!

I’ve had conversations with friends, who like me, have observed children in restaurants who won’t sit down, or who run around department stores pulling clothes off racks, while parents just look on hoping that staff will control their children’s antics. Too many parents take the easy way out and offer up a new toy for Johnny if he just waits five more minutes for mommy to pay at the checkout counter, or give Suzie some new stickers if she will just stay out of the waitress’s way.  I’ve seen it.  I shake my head. Who’s in charge here? Reward children for inappropriate behavior?

Tell your children to behave, or there will be consequences! Rewarding children for acting out in moments of boredom, disappointment or frustration builds a society of unruly children. There are so many more children now who run around town undisciplined than there were a generation or two ago. What happened to more parents taking charge?

Then, these children, being rewarded for bad behavior, enter the school system and the poor teachers have no control over them. The children don’t respond to the word “No” because they were never taught it at home.

I heard another great "school rule" the other day. Telling secrets is not allowed. Now you won’t find this in any handbook, but apparently, it’s something elementary school children are not supposed to do during school hours, because if you tell your best friend a secret, then the other children will feel left out if they don’t know what you just said, too.

(I’m shaking my head here at my desk as I type this.)

Johnny, Mary and Suzie, I’d like to be the first to tell you that it’s OK if your classmate doesn’t tell you something she whispered into Jimmy’s ear. You won’t simultaneously combust because you’re told not to be nosy. Steve and Jodi, no, you’re not invited to Katie’s birthday party. It might not be because she doesn’t like you. Maybe her parents can only afford to invite 10 people to Chuck E. Cheese and she had to narrow down the guest list. Or maybe, Katie doesn’t want to invite you because you pushed her down on the playground. It’s called karma. 

The fact that this little boy at the Yankee’s game made headlines is preposterous to me anyway. Now, on top of him being rewarded a baseball for his outburst, he learned that if he acts up, he gets extra attention. He even gets to be on TV.

I can just see other children taking notes. When at a baseball game, if I don’t catch a ball, freak out. I will then get a ball, and become an instant star.

I can’t wait to see what they will be like as teens. Their mental message may be one of “Johnny asked Suzie to the prom. He didn’t ask me. I don’t have a date. It’s not fair. Let me tell my parents so they can hire an attorney to sue the school for discrimination, and get the prom abolished.”

What is this world coming to?

I repeat, life, is not fair, and that’s OK.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

CJ April 27, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Agree with ya 1000%
Tom April 27, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Nicely said Laura!
Laura Madsen April 27, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Thank you, Tom & CJ.
S.G. April 28, 2012 at 12:36 PM
A good essay, except that I agree with the school rule "a child cannot distribute invitations to a birthday party in their classroom unless they invite the whole class". Yes, there will always be times in your life that you aren't included, but who would be so cruel and tactless to distribute party invitations where it would be obvious that some of the children are not invited? Even now, fifty years later, I can remember the two children in my class who were usually not invited...and I feel really bad for them. Let's make this an adult example. You work in an office where twenty people work together every day in one room. A co-worker comes in one morning all excited because they are having a birthday party and hands out invitations to eighteen of the twenty people. Your thoughts on this scenario? Additionally, in the twenty-first century there are many ways to distribute invitations beside mail and physically handing them out. Most of the invitations that I have received in the last few years have been through email/evite;the remaining ones were formal inviations received in the mail.
Curt Carnes April 28, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Laura, Well said, very well said! I do, however, worry you are way to “conservative” for a Huffington Post Publication, and will soon be told to stop blogging here!
Curt Carnes April 28, 2012 at 12:57 PM
S.G. -- Odds are, at least in my case, if I was one of those two office workers who didn't get that prized birthday party invitation, I'm sure the feelings would be mutual, and I won't have wanted to go anyway.
Laura Madsen April 28, 2012 at 01:18 PM
I actually have lived through similar situations. I can remember co-workers dropping off wedding invitations at peoples' desks at work. Not everyone got one. Life goes on. When I was in elementary school, there was no email. Myself, and classmates brought birthday party invitations into school and dropped them off at the desks of the kids who you wanted to come to the party. You didn't make a huge deal out of it. And if someone else was going the inviting, I remember sitting at my desk sometimes wondering if I would get an invitation, too. I would wait with anticipation, excitement, or maybe a bit of worry. At the same time, sometimes a girl or boy would hand out invitations and I hoped that they would not give one to me because, frankly I didn't like them very much for some childish reason. I'll give you another example: back when I was in high school they had fundraisers where kids could buy flowers for girls/boys that they liked and have them delivered to their homerooms at the end of the week. As a girl, everyone hoped that they would get at least one flower, and sometimes you didn't. And boy, there was jealousy of the one person who got 5 or 6. That's just how it goes. Life is not a popularity contest. Sometimes you get the gold and sometimes you don't. Learning how to handle not being chosen, or not getting the gold is important. If you don't learn it young, it's a lot harder to digest as an adult.
Laura Madsen April 28, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Curt, I agree.
Laura Madsen April 28, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Thanks, Curt, for the compliment. Ah, different viewpoints, that's what makes the world go 'round. It would be a very boring place if everyone had just one opinion. (P.S. Never fear, my blogging will be here (in cyberspace at the very least!). I'm actually launching my own blog website this summer, details to come.... but I will still strive to perk up Patch content. I won't jump ship!)
S.G. April 28, 2012 at 01:31 PM
What? Off-topic, but you totally lost me here. What was conservative about this essay?
Laura Madsen April 28, 2012 at 01:54 PM
This blog was also published in the Rumson-Fair Haven Patch, http://rumson.patch.com/blog_posts/its-not-fair-but-its-ok-8b9aaeb3 and I thought I'd share some of the comments from two of the readers here. I think they brought out some good points as well: - - - Katie Neocleous 7:55 am on Saturday, April 28, 2012 Great life lessons! cacthing the ball yourself is much more rewarding and gratifying than someone giving it to you out of pity! Reply - - - Anthony Walker 8:34 am on Saturday, April 28, 2012 Great post! Kids these days are taught everybody wins. Disappointments in life are what makes us better people in the end. You live and you learn from your mistakes! So the saying "everybody wins" takes away the joy of accomplishing something with hard work and motivation!
Beverly Gilbert April 28, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Aah Laura....I couldn't have said it better myself. I totally agree with your piece. I couldn't believe when I saw that news clip about the little boy. There are way too many spoiled and unruly children these days, a product of poor parenting skills. These parents probably think they are doing the right thing at the time by not saying "No" or giving the child what they want. It's probably the easy thing for them to do so they don't have to hear the child whine and complain. Do they ever think "what am I teaching my child?". Or "what are the future consequences of my behavior?" These poor kids.
Laura Madsen April 28, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Thank you for leaving a comment, Bev. :) If you're a parent, you've been there - you've got a child whining or crying because they didn't get their way. Some days it really grates on your last nerve and you would do almost anything to get them to be quiet. But if you cater to that, they will keep doing it. It's rewarding them for bad behavior. Losing gracefully is becoming an endangered skill. As you said, if you think about what kind of precedent you are setting, maybe it's worth listening to some crying a few times, because eventually, acceptance will be learned and children will embrace appreciation for the game or experience at hand, and not just for what they get. If a child doesn't get immediate gratification, it's not the end of the world. I feel these lessons are learned at a young age. If they are not, then these children become adults who perpetuate a culture of self-entitlement.
Steve April 28, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Laura, I agree with you, life is not fair, some times you win, some times you don't. And bad behavior should not be rewarded. Also, I saw the video of the crying kid, I think it was more to do that couple was completely oblivious to the crying kid and were celebrating, taking cell phone photos, etc. Not that they did any thing wrong.
Laura Madsen April 28, 2012 at 08:18 PM
I don't think that the couple who caught the ball did anything wrong at all, and I'm sure they were distracted. They were probably on the big stadium screen and texting their friends, etc. What a great moment for them! But, I think first of all that the announcer shouldn't have reprimanded them publicly. Secondly, once the other person with good intentions, offered the child a ball he should have been told by the child's parents, "Thank you, but no thanks. He already has a game ball at home from the last time he was here. He has to learn that you don't get a ball at every game you go to." The parents should have set an example for the child by politely declining the gesture of the ball donor.
Jean Warren April 29, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Totally agree with Laura. That is how I was brought up in the 50's and 60's.
Laura Madsen April 29, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Thank you for leaving a comment, Jean. It's nice to know that there are people who share some of my opinions.
centurion April 30, 2012 at 12:49 PM
I caught a piece of an interview with the parents, they had an attitude similar to yours, It aint fair, better luck next time. They knew he'd get over it. But not everybody feels that way, which is why somebody else tossed them a ball. And I agree, what message does a "participation" trophy send? As parents the lesson of "work hard to get what you want" is the best gift we can give our children.
Laura Madsen April 30, 2012 at 01:22 PM
centurion, I agree, the lesson of "work hard to get what you want" is an important one to share with our children. Things don't just always come your way easily, and you don't always get to be at the top or the winner, or claim the prize. Learning to deal with disappointment in these situations is equally important. Related, one of my friends had posted in response to this blog on facebook that the high school in her Colorado town no longer will allow anyone to be labelled as a "valedictorian". I had responded that if you can't be proud of your achievements in school by receiving recognition for doing the best you can and it results in being at the top of your class, that is really wrong. It will create a culture that is satisfied with mediocrity. If kids can't be rewarded and stand out when they do achieve something for fear of upsetting other children who haven't done as well, then they will develop a "why bother" attitude. Why bother to get all A's or do extra credit assignments if I won't be recognized for it. It bothers me that some schools and some people undermine the opinions of those who, like me, do believe that children need to understand that they are not given everything they want all of the time, they won't be included all of the time, and they do need to expend effort for achieving something. In my view, a little healthy competition is good. That's why America has come as far as it has.

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