July 13, 2017

QUESTION ASKED AND ANSWERED, OR THE ESPY FOR THE MOTHER OF THE YEAR GOES TO…

I’ve never been what anyone would call an athletic person. I grew up dancing ballet, but I was determined to encourage my own kids to play sports. The last thing I wanted was for my kids to experience the exquisite torture of being picked last in P.E. or struggle to keep up with their peers who played sports like I had. I wanted my kids to grow up secure in their abilities, and to benefit from being a part of a team. Despite my enthusiasm, it didn’t take long for my oldest son to put the brakes on my athletic aspirations. He dabbled in everything from T-ball to soccer before steadfastly refusing to try another sport.

Not every child will grow up to be the next Russell Wilson, but most kids benefit from playing a sport and being a part of a team. So what’s a parent to do when you know sports can be a great confidence and friendship builder, but your kids want nothing to do with them?

Stop talking and start listening

“When parents listen to their kids, what they find is that the children who don’t like sports had some sort of a bad experience,” said Dr. Kyle Pruett, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University and an executive board member of The Goddard School. “The sport was too competitive, the coach was mean, or they felt that they didn’t have the skills necessary to succeed at that sport. If parents just push and push, all that will do is create negative energy that will then be pushed back on them in the future.”

—“Sports for kids who hate sports,” Jody Allard, ESPN.com, June 23rd.

And speaking of creating negative energy, the “stop talking” part sounds like excellent advice in this case:

I wrote an essay in The Washington Post last year, during the height of the Brock Turner case, about my sons and rape culture. I didn’t think it would be controversial when I wrote it; I was sure most parents grappled with raising sons in the midst of rape culture. The struggle I wrote about was universal, I thought, but I was wrong. My essay went semi-viral, and for the first time my sons encountered my words about them on their friends’ phones, their teachers’ computers, and even overheard them discussed by strangers on a crowded metro bus. It was one thing to agree to be written about in relative obscurity, and quite another thing to have my words intrude on their daily lives.

One of my sons was hurt by my words, although he’s never told me so. He doesn’t understand why I lumped him and his brother together in my essay. He sees himself as the “good” one, the one who is sensitive and thoughtful, and who listens instead of reacts. He doesn’t understand that even quiet misogyny is misogyny, and that not all sexists sound like Twitter trolls. He is angry at me now, although he won’t admit that either, and his anger led him to conservative websites and YouTube channels; places where he can surround himself with righteous indignation against feminists, and tell himself it’s ungrateful women like me who are the problem.

* * * * * * * *

I know I’m not supposed to cast an entire sex with a single paint brush — not all men, I’m sure some readers are thinking and preparing to type or tweet. But if it’s impossible for a white person to grow up without adopting racist ideas, simply because of the environment in which they live, how can I expect men not to subconsciously absorb at least some degree of sexism? White people aren’t safe, and men aren’t safe, no matter how much I’d like to assure myself that these things aren’t true.

—“I’m Done Pretending Men Are Safe (Even My Sons),” Jody Allard, Role Reboot July 6th.

Found via John Podhoretz, who tweets, “You want to know how an ordinary person can also be a monster? Read this. Read this person do evil to her son.”

And ESPN wonders why their numbers are down so dramatically.