Discover more from My Daily Dose of WTF
The Stolen Dream of a Failed Boy’s Dad
This must be one of the greatest titles I have ever come up with. At first glance, you might think I have fallen into the trap of the gender ideology excesses but not at all. As entertaining as it is to watch unfold, each new event crazier than the one before, I have nothing to add.
When having a discussion with the family over the weekend, a delicate topic came on the table. As a mother of two boys, both with good grades but one with very limited sports abilities, we ended up talking about team sports and the social pressure they come with.
Around the table, my boyfriend and I, two very unpopular kids during gym classes, his brother with the same disdain for sports, but smarter than both of us together, their parents and the brother’s girlfriend who didn’t comment about her gym-related past. I was arguing that the athetic kids and teenagers are often the worst assholes in any social situation, and that the very fact that they are athletes makes them just like that, especially in team sports such as hockey, soccer, baseball, football, basketball. Every failure or mistake is a social shame, and self-worth rhymes with performance. As a girl, or women (I am definitely an adult now), being bad at sports didn’t define me socially; being the weird one did. For boys and men however, this is very different. They are supposed to be good at sports, or at least like it and know everything about it to compensate; otherwise they are socially impotent, also known as losers. This was true in the 1990s, probably a little less now, since gaming and being nerdy is now accepted, but there are remains of that, especially in remote regions.
My oldest son is a judoka, and he’s been one for many years now. Martial arts are great and very different from team sports. Without having to actually engage with them hockey players, he can still be considered an athlete, if not cool at least OK, and probably able to physically challenge them. My youngest son, however, is not into sports. He should be, because his stature would make him some kind of God, with immense hands, strength and height, but he hates everything about it. He is an artist, close to his emotions and always creating something new, a drum solo, a guitar riff of a new cover album for one of his numerous long-term goals, or learning every detail he can about the passion of the moment.
At his current school level; he is heading easily to fourth grade, there is already an major division between those who are good at sports, and those who aren’t. Already competitive as fuck, his friends won’t let him play the ball during recess because he’s not good enough. They even make up new rules when he tries to play to make sure he won’t come back. Little sports dude their age all look the same physically: short hair, branded clothing, girlfriends (already?), very dirty mouth, with a very clear image of what being a boy, a real one, is. They already are intolerant of what isn’t them. We learned it the hard way recently when a “friend” decided to call him a girl because of his long hair until we had to make an intervention. At this age, they are nine, it surely comes from either the parents or the team. On both flanks, they are taught unity, sameness, inclusion, cohesion, maleness (sort of). Some of those terms might look positive, right. Who can be against inclusion?
Closed team or closed social group inclusion generally leads to massive exclusion of the others, those who aren’t exactly the same as them. It sounds a little like ethnic nationalism. There is a big group of teenagers riding their bikes loudly in our street, insulting those of them who cannot perform the wheely (riding only on the rear wheel), insulting them openly. What are they going to say to the lonely kid walking on the sidewalk alone, lost in his head? He’s going to get the F-word, or being called loser, and parents will laugh at it, thinking that boys will be boys. I say “Stupids will be stupids”. Normalizing the behaviour or shitty people for the sake of being part of a group is a big society issue. They become those adults who normalize sexual misconduct in sports initiations or who buy a house with money they will never have just because real men buy houses, making kids they don’t want with girls they don’t love.
The social pressure put on those kids, either by their parents or their coaches is unbearable, but they don’t know it (yet). They are convinced that the way they are told to be is the only way, or the good way, until they realize it’s not and then maybe it’s too late. The price of stepping out can be great, and not everyone is mentally or socially equipped to pay it. Exclusion is never an option when you’ve been told the other is the wrong one.
While talking about how the students in the sports program at my oldest son’s school were the worst, stupid and mean, my boyfriend’s father stopped me and said something very interesting. Insisting that I was generalizing, talking in bad faith about my “opinion”, and that team sports were good for kids, and all parents would like their children (he probably said “sons”) to be part of sports teams because sports are great. He finished by saying my experience was not reality for most, that I was wrong, not even listening and acknowledging his sons’ experience. For once, I didn’t argue, because I can easily catch on fire with him and it’s not worth the pain. Clearly, he knew nothing about nothing and especially not his own sons. Thankfully, we changed the subject.
Today, while having dinner with my boyfriend, I was thinking about this painful moment. Wandering in my mind, it suddenly hit me in the face that his father had been greatly disappointed with his sons, and was still suffering from it. Both unable to play sports, with long hair at some points, not interested in what they should have been as boys, hunting, sports, tools and motorized vehicles. I thought he was again disagreeing with me just for the sake of it, as he usually does, but it wasn’t it. No, he was sharing his grief, the slow death of his high expectations for his sons to accomplish what he couldn’t, to be a better version of himself instead of becoming the unique independent fantastic humans they are. Disappointment really is the worst emotion.