Let me be clear: I’ve never ascribed to the belief that all kids should get trophies just for participating, in virtually every single sport they play from toddlerhood through high school. I think the “everyone wins” mantra, be it for youth sports or academics, is kind of silly and ultimately self-defeating, in teaching kids, wrongly, that life is fair.
That said, I do agree with idea of making sure every kid in the class gets a valentine from my child, at least if they are in grade school or middle school. If I am supervising my kids filling out their Valentine’s Day cards for classmates, you better be sure I am making sure there is one for everyone. Same goes with Halloween candy for classmates or any other class party where a student hands out something to someone else.
Why? Well, why the hell not? How would you like to be the few kids that didn’t get one from Savannah or Jett or whatever-the-popular-kid’s-name-is?
That is exactly what happened in a classroom yesterday when my friend was there to help out with her child’s Valentine’s Day party. One boy only received about ten Valentines, when other boys and girls received several more. When my friend noticed this, she asked another boy if they were supposed to make one for everyone. He replied that his mom told him he only had to hand them to his friends or any kid of his choice.
The boy who only got a few valentines -- a child who might be described as more vulnerable to cruelty -- - was visibly crushed. And he was old enough to know that it wasn’t an oversight or an accident, despite my friend’s attempts to tell him so and sweetly assuage the awfulness.
When my friend shared this story in an online post last night, she got a lot of feedback from those of us lamenting the dearth of manners and the seemingly growing cult of exclusion.
You might believe that this is just another example of the school of hard knocks, that life isn’t and shouldn’t be fair. I respect that viewpoint (although I don’t agree with it, in this case) and I get that kids aren’t nice to each other, often innately. Heck, Charlie “I got a rock” Brown is one of my all-time favorite characters, probably because the pain and humor of his plight is rooted in those familiar rites of exclusionary passage.
But surely, real-life parents in today’s PC-overboard culture should know better and teachers could make sure to reinforce the everyone-gets-one policy. Because you know that boy is going to remember this Valentine’s Day for the rest of his life. He’ll still have that everyone-wins trophy for soccer, but this is the real lesson about the playing field that is so often disguised as fair, but only when it makes people feel better to say so.
Do you agree or disagree? Valentine’s Day cards for all, or just for your kids’ friends?
Oh, and birthday parties? That’s a topic saved for another day.