Some relatively recent events and articles that got me thinking: one set of parents wants to sue Sandy Hook Elementary; the suicide of internet activist Aaron Swartz; an article in the 1/15/13, Wall Street Journal, “I Have to Swim Against Her?” about Missy Franklin swimming for her high school; and a letter to the editor in my local paper about a high school softball game.
How do these connect? They all demonstrate a lack of ability to deal appropriately with adversity. I worry that Americans are loosing the toughness of our pioneer forefathers. The first two examples are adults responding poorly. While I recognize the pain of the Sandy Hook parents, suing the school (i.e. the rest of the community) to “do something” is not appropriate. The Principal and one of the teachers gave their lives trying to save the kids, and the whole community shares the pain. The people truly at fault, the insane shooter and his mother who should have had her guns locked up, are both dead. We can’t vent any anger on them. Making the school district a whipping boy is inappropriate. In other words, sometimes bad things happen to good people, and they just have to grieve then move on somehow.
The second example, Aaron Schwartz’s suicide, is sad because a person chose to end his own healthy life. He was potentially facing a bad situation (prison time) for actions that he chose to commit. Was this his escape plan all along? “If I get caught, I’ll commit suicide.” I doubt it. Yes, it was reported that he suffered from depression. So maybe he was a “double victim” of his bad choice (to break the law) combined with bad brain chemistry? It’s sad that he didn’t have the mental toughness to decide, “I did the crime and I’ll do the time. Then I’ll get out and continue with my life.”
One contributor to this lack of mental robustness: parents raising kids to be victims. The examples involve high school swimming and softball. The theme of the swimming article is: What a shame that these girls have to swim against Missy Franklin, Olympic champion; they don’t have a chance for first place. [Digression: Missy passed on turning pro (worth maybe $3 million) so she could swim for her high school. WOW, talk about a sports hero, putting the love of sports ahead of money – she gets my admiration.] Granted these young ladies have worked hard for years, and instead of being state champs they’ll have to settle for second. But we adults need to emphasize the up side, not focus on victimhood. Nowhere does the article talk about the thrill of competing against an Olympic champion. How many people get that opportunity in their life? We can be victims or we can be winners; it’s all perspective.
The softball game is an even more extreme demonstration of adults teaching kids to be victims. Here are the key part from the letter, “To the young lady [friend of the writer’s daughter] I saw robbed of her home run, I apologize on behalf of the adults in charge for taking away your moment. Devastation. That is the feeling you get when you see the opposing team crush that young lady’s moment of joy by appealing to the umpire that the girl she batted in did not touch home plate, thereby annulling her home run. When did this game become about the adults and not about the kids?” This was a high school varsity softball game, not T-ball! Why is this mother robbing the girls of their maturity? How do we raise our children to accept adversity if we shield them from the consequences of their actions and rules of the game in a sporting event? These are the some of key lessons we want them to take away from sports!
It is essential that we raise our Grandchildren to be strong, functioning adults. They have to learn the consequences of their actions, and sometimes they will have to accept that bad things happen to good people, including them. Otherwise they grow up as permanent victims, unable to recover from even minor discouragements.