A “Reply All” Moment
Illustration by Kristina Micotti
The email came in hot on a Saturday, in response to a mass email from a recreational sports league reminding families about sign-ups for the coming season.
It began: “I just want you to know that Frieda Smith* made my daughters quit the sport entirely so please remove me from your email list…”
The email, which took advantage of an inadvertent failure to blind-copy 260 players’ parents, goes on to say how one of her two daughters overheard Frieda badmouthing the playing ability of the girl’s sister, because Frieda was jealous her own daughter had not been assigned to the plum position on the field. With great dramatic flourish, she describes the remarks the daughter had overheard about her sister—that she was “weak, slow, not bright, etc.”
The young sisters were so traumatized by Frieda’s unkind comments, and the failure of the league to take her to task for them, that they had no choice but to quit the league altogether. “They do not understand why people they thought were their friends would allow someone to behave like this, and never want to play down there again,” she wrote.
Loyal readers know I’m in no position to look down on the ways of other parents, but I ask you to indulge me this once as I suspend my laissez-faire policy and go Full Judgmental.
People! It takes a village to raise a generation of kids who are not addicted to drama and can handle unpleasant situations. Some of you, quite frankly, are NOT HELPING.
I don’t know if “Frieda” actually said the things Mass Email Mama alleges, but regardless, I’ve seen this behavior by plenty of parents. On the sidelines of one of Ben’s peewee soccer games, I overheard a dad berating a coach over the choice of another kid as goalie when his son was, he felt quite strongly, the superior player. He referred to the other kid as a “waste of space.” Said “waste of space” and his jilted adversary were four years old.
But I have just as big an issue with the folks who indulge their kids’ indignation over adults’ poor behavior. Come on, people. We do our kids no favors when we step in on their behalf instead of teaching them strategies to deal with difficult people.
Oh, I understand the compulsion to step in. It’s especially tempting in this age, when we arrange our kids’ playtime via text with other parents. It would be so easy to beseech other parents to talk to their kids to resolve their conflicts on their behalf. Making peace, resolving conflicts, and looking for the win-win is literally my day job. I burn with the desire to solve my kids’ problems.
But I do not. And neither should you.
Our kids aren’t going to have us forever by their sides, solving all their personal conflicts and cutting their steak when they go out into the Big Bad World. They’re going to encounter a lot of unreasonable, manipulative, unkind people. And very sharp steak knives.
Today is when they learn to get knocked down and to get up again. What is the lesson in letting your kid quit a sport because someone else acted lousy?
It doesn’t mean I’m not sympathetic to my kids’ interpersonal woes as they occur, and of course I’ll step in if an adult is being abusive beyond what they can handle or another kid is viciously bullying them. But they need to be their own champions and stand up for themselves. They also need to recognize instances in which they shouldn’t even bother with confrontation at all. Let it go: It’s not just a song from Frozen.
And that, my friends, is why I refrained from hitting Reply All and telling Mass Email Mama what I thought of her indignation and instead wrote about it in a magazine.
Don’t judge me.
* Names have been changed to protect me from glares at the sports field.