Because, I guess, I’ve made a career out of complaining (proving the adage that everybody is good at something), friends, random strangers and Target employees quite frequently enjoy sharing their latest outrage with me. It usually starts with, “You’re not going to believe this.”
I act appropriately to their story and by this I mean I shake my head and say, “Are you kidding me?” But more often than not I’m thinking yikes, I can so see myself doing that — or much worse, I have done that.
The latest missive of shock and awe that came my way was a mother sharing the insanity of her sister-in-law who was canceling a long-awaited family vacation because her 8-year-old son made a Little League all-star team and couldn’t afford to miss practice. She was all WTH about it and how crazy we had gotten as parents that our family priorities were skewed toward a third-grader’s recreational sports schedule.
I did my “are you kidding me” thing and then felt sheepish for not attempting to defend the sister-in-law. That’s right: defend, because I saw what happened five years ago when a friend of mine opted to take a family vacay to Hawaii instead of having her then-elementary school son play on the all-star team. It was a long and winding road of retribution.
Because of “Vacationgate,” when it came to the Little League “draft” the next spring, her son was not selected until the last round and at the first practice the coach (a dad who lived down the street and was an assistant pastor at their church) came up to the mom and solemnly shared with her that “no one had wanted her son because of the family’s egregious lack of commitment to the league” and then quoted some Bible story from the book of Malachi. (Umm, am I the only one who didn’t know there was a book of Malachi?)
Then even when her kid killed it during the regular season, hitting home run after home run, and being an amazing first baseman, he was not selected for the all-star team and the mom was told once again it was because of the “bailing on the team” the previous summer. It took the family years and getting their son in a competitive baseball league for the stench of the “Vacationgate” to finally dissipate.
This level of extracurricular crazy is, I’m afraid, the norm and has led parents, in massive numbers, to be afflicted with FOKMO — Fear Of Kids Missing Out. FOKMO is like FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) but a million times more intense because it’s about your kids. I mean really, once you have children, who cares if you’re missing out, but, by God and all that is holy, you don’t want your kid to be a single rider in the not-included lane.
I believe FOKMO, fueled by its evil sidekick Social Media, is the No. 1 reason why our children’s summers are so chock full of organized activity. In this day and age, is there anything worse than admitting your kid has the big ZERO going on? I think for many moms and dads it’s akin to admitting you’re bad as a parent. If you want to see a group of moms throw down, just mention how your kids are so busy and then step back and watch the one-upmanship.
Listen, I’m not judging. I’m as guilty as everyone else. Raise your hand if you’ve ever had to sign a contract stipulating your attendance, dedication and obedience to your child’s sports activity. Yeah, my hand is now raised and I can only imagine what my mother would have done decades ago if someone had asked her to sign such a thing. She was a Southern lady so it wouldn’t have been hoisting her middle finger, but I’m sure she would said something along the lines of “Well, bless your heart,” then she would have gently returned the contract unsigned.
Why is it that our parents never suffered from FOKMO? Was it because they knew the value of boredom? A dollop of boredom allows your brain to recharge, to wander and to create. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that my very best ideas have occurred while vacuuming. Now, I feel like as parents we have been conned into believing if our kids aren’t constantly doing a planned activity, it will culminate in an embarrassing ACT score.
Recently, I put myself in FOKMO rehab. Mainly because FOKMO takes up a lot of time. To be a stellar FOKMO parent you constantly have to be searching for new opportunities for your child and be on high alert for what everyone else is doing. These days I think I’d rather vacuum.