The other day I had a conversation that was very telling of a phenomenon in our culture that has backfired on itself. Here's the conversation, see if you can catch what's wrong with the picture:
Grandma: I found a really cute matching t-shirt set the other day at Bass Pro Shops that would be great for the Uber-Princess and her Grandpa. They say "My Fishing Buddy".
Me: Cool! That does sound perfect. She loves to fish with him.
Grandma: Yeah, but then I thought maybe all the other grandkids would feel left out.
Me: Oh? Well, certainly my kids would think it's cool since they don't care as much about fishing as she does.
Grandma: Well, I didn't get them. I didn't want anyone to feel bad.
So there you have it. See what's wrong there? Nobody gets to be special in case it makes somebody else feel bad. Amusing Dad pointed out that it's a lot like our park district soccer games. The teams aren't allowed to keep score. That way there aren't any "losers". But then again there also aren't any winners. In an effort to protect children's "fragile" psyche's, we rob them of the opportunity to be applauded for anything. And all the sheltering we do is foolishness. The kids get it. They know which team won and which team lost. Even if we're not keeping score - they are. And in doing so they reflect something about human nature. They reflect the natural desire we all have to know where we rank in just about every area of life...because we hope that somewhere in there we'll come out on top.
It's unfortunate that society has ruled that the adults aren't allowed to call it like it is and actually make kids feel special. So the Uber-Princess's cousins aren't Grandpa's fishing buddies. They might be his bird watching buddies or workshop buddies or something else instead. Or maybe they're special to Grandpa for some other reason entirely. Too bad their grandparents (on one side of the family, at least) will never actually let them know it - or if they do, certainly not where anyone else can hear. And too bad that kids everywhere are being offered fewer and fewer opportunities to be recognized publicly for the gifts and abilities God has given them. No wonder kids have "self esteem issues" these days. All of our coddling has had the exact opposite effect.
This mom thinks it's time to stop saying that nobody is special and start finding the things that make each child special. For Christmas this year, maybe we should give our kids a hearty pat on the back for every thing they've done well at or tried hard at or failed graciously at. And we should do it in the presence of their siblings. They just might learn not to make the same mistake we've been making in recent years. They might learn that it's okay for somebody else to be Grandpa's fishing buddy. And in this age, that in itself would make them special.
Quick follow up to the Christmas Miracles post: Llama Momma was the winner of the gift basket drawing. Congrats to her!