What are parents teaching their kids?
Rebecca Sedwick would have turned 13 on Sunday.
The Florida girl is dead.
She killed herself, jumping to her death at an abandoned concrete plant after receiving text message after text message after brutally mean text message for months from 14- and 12-year-old girls telling Sedwick:
“nobody cares about u”
“i hate you”
“you seriously deserve to die”
Then, in a final act of miserable and unthinkable meanness, police say one of the 14-year-olds wrote on Facebook, “Yes IK I bullied REBECCA nd she killed her self but IDGAF” — and IDGAF is not short for, “I am so amazingly sorry." I bring all of this ugliness up because Rebecca Sedwick was bullied, and this is why a Texas parent daring to use that same word — bullying — to describe a football loss is not simply annoying helicopter parent whining, but dangerous.
Sedwick is dead, in some small part because of parenting like this — parenting that does not take seriously such a huge epidemic.
Simple facts: Down here in Texas, underneath The Friday Night Lights we remain intertwined with, one of the best high school football programs in the state beat a woefully overmatched team 91-0. There is an argument to be made that this score reflects poor sportsmanship on the part of Aledo, although, I am unwilling to do so. This is athletics to me. Teams lose, sometimes embarrassingly so. This is the fault of nobody except themselves. If Western Hills did not want Aledo to score that 91st point Friday, football provides an easy solution — play defense.
Or better yet, while driving back from that game, why not use this as a teachable moment for these kids from Western Hills? This is a great reminder that sometimes we go up against daunting foes or odds in life, and there is honor in trying. Not quitting, even when your sideline has only 30 players, is a victory even in 91-0.
Or, we could use this loss to talk about the disparity in public school funding across this country. Western Hills, like so many schools in big-city, cash-strapped districts, does not have the funding for football (or anything else) like Aledo. If we want to talk, let us talk about how easily we have abdicated our moral responsibility to make sure every kid in this country has access to a good education.
Instead, a Western Hills parent made Friday’s game about bullying.
No really, an anonymous Western Hills parent filed a formal complaint against Aledo coach Tim Buchanan for having his team bully Western Hills. The online complaint form listed the time of the bullying from 7:30-10 and included this parenting what-not-to-do:
“My son plays for Western Hills football team. On Friday night we all witnessed bullying firsthand, it is not a pretty sight. Picking up my son from the field house after the game and taking him home was tough. I did not know what to say on the ride home to explain the behavior of the Aledo coaches for not easing up when the game was in hand.”
Never mind that Aledo yanked its starters in the first quarter, ran a running clock starting in the third quarter, a continuous clock for all of the fourth — or that the Western Hills coach said he had no problem whatsoever with what went down Friday.
This accounts for parenting nowadays, and actually goes a long way in explaining why bullying and suicides from bullying have become so prevalent. We have forgotten that kids do what they see, not what we say — and they see us being unrelentingly mean in rhetoric and actions to gays and fat people and people who think and look and act differently than ourselves. So, they go to school and do the same — physically and verbally assaulting classmates for sport. This is bullying, and kids like Sedwick keep dying because awareness and lectures and online bullying complaint forms do not solve the problem at all.
Or sometimes, like with Sedwick, it is over something as trivial as a boy. We have lost our way on how to treat others on matters even as small as this.
Where we have failed our kids is by failing to follow the golden rule of sports: Coach your own team. This means having hard conversations with our kids about a lop-sided loss or the transfer student being picked on, teaching responsibility not blame and demonstrating that which we say we want to see.
There was no bullying on Friday in Texas, only bad parenting.