Bright and early yesterday morning, I got a glimpse into a new world, one I had not experienced before. The new world? Wrestling. My son has been doing this for a couple of months now, but this was the first time I had the opportunity to take him to a tournament.
The night before, we drove across town to get him weighed in. They weighed him and inspected him, in a very non-personal manner, writing on him with a Sharpie every time something was determined. If I was nine years old I would want to wrestle too, just so I could have the marker art all over me. When the process was complete, the coach said, “You can go over there and see what bracket he’s in and you can buy your brackets for tomorrow.” I smiled and said, “thank you.” Buy what?! Surely I didn’t hear that correctly. He said they might change before tomorrow, so I figured we would just do the bracket thing tomorrow, whatever that was.
We arrived 30 minutes early the next morning. There were people everywhere, I couldn’t even find a parking spot. I parked on the grass with a few other cars that were also on the late side of early. We walked in and I had no idea where my child was supposed to go. The ‘brackets’ on the wall are in a special, secret code that everyone else understood but me. Where are the decoder rings? I never found one in my Cracker Jack box. There were no less than 30 sheets of paper taped to the wall with lines and fine print. Where is Carla Moss when you need her? She probably wouldn’t even need a decoder ring.
Joe found his coach and we finally got tot the right place. Joe was on mat 8, match 4, so we had a little time to find a seat and wait for the tournament to begin.
Let me just say that I don’t get organized exercise. Sitting there, I had a flashback to third grade kickball. I wanted desperately to play, but I didn’t understand the game. Back then, I suppose they thought all kids should know how to play that game, but I had not learned that at my last school, nor from my parents. One day, I finally got to the front of line. It was my turn to kick the ball and have people cheering me on to accomplish running around in a circle before the ball could catch up with me. Here comes the ball… kick! I kicked, I ran and the cheering began, only it wasn’t cheering, it was people yelling at me because I ran the wrong way.
Now it was time for Joe to wrestle. He does and he wins his first tournament match, not just the today, but his first ever. Yeah! After he won, it was time to find out where he’s supposed to go next. One would think that the coaches have this knowledge and would be willing to share it. Nope. One of Joe’s coaches said that I could go look at the brackets on the wall in the other building or I could just buy one. What?! The was the second time I heard the word ‘buy’ before ‘bracket’. Okay, let me get this straight, I have to pay to know where my kid is supposed to be? Seriously?! The only cash I had was a $10 bill, neatly folded in a tiny envelope to give to an impoverished person if I happen to run into one. No, I wasn’t expecting to run into one there, but the envelope was in my coat pocket if the opportunity presented itself. Feeling odd, I took the cash out and bought a bracket. And for those who know me well, no, I did not throw it away and yes, it will be an art project. 😉
Now I’ve heard about these crazy parents at sporting events, but this was my first time experiencing them. The word ‘wow’ came to mind. The parents were giving their kids advice, telling them what to do and what not to do. Some were practicing moves, one guy even had his kid standing on his head to practice balance. Hmm, maybe that’s how we’re supposed to achieve balance in our lives, let’s all stand on our heads.
Studying these intense parents, I had to wonder if I’m a sucky parent because I just want my kids to enjoy what they do, support them and cheer for them without trying to make them into competitive animals. We had to wait a long time in between matches, kids and parents pulling out their electronic pacifiers to deal with the boredom.
It was almost Joe’s turn again, but first ‘Hoss’ was up. I won’t even get started on that. His parents were right in front of me, yelling at him, shouting loudly at him, all of the moves he’s supposed to do and not do. It seemed to me like Hoss was struggling to do his best, distracted by his obtrusive, pushy parents, attempting to listen to his coach and sporting a look of confusion and defeat. At the end of this particular match, his mom looked over to his dad, as she had no idea what just happened. Did he win or lose? She was as clueless as I was.
Yes, that was a long-winded story and I know you’re asking, “What does any of this have to do with Christmas?” It has a lot to do with Christmas. Christmas chaos. The chaotic vision of people all over the place, running around trying to accomplish a win, not unlike what you would see at the mall at Christmas time.
Our competitive nature has spilled over into Christmas. Shopping has become a marathon, it’s even advertised that way. Christmas decor has become a production, not just a simple display of our love of the season. Who can buy the most gifts, put the most lights on their house and attend the most parties in less than 30 days, assuming they didn’t start before Black Friday?
The bigger problem here is that nobody seems to be enjoying it. Sporting events used to be about supporting your team, now kids are playing portable video games and parents are playing with their mobile phones, distractions from the real meaning of the event. Looking at the Facebook news feed, I see a lot of comments about having to shop and finally getting the tree up. These types of comments do not have a happy tone. The mood is unfortunate. The drudgery of shopping for people that are on the ‘I have to buy for’ list. The torture of trying to find the perfect gift or top last years perfect gift. Having to attend the company ‘holiday’ party. Tolerating the extended family. Suffering through the repetitive motions of the season.
I also had to buy a ‘bracket’. Really, they can’t provide a meaningful 3¢ piece of paper to the coaches? Every ounce of my being did not want to make that purchase, however I did not have a choice. Do we buy gifts because it’s the socially acceptable thing to do and we feel there is no choice? Sadly, I believe the answer is yes. This year, our gifts will be thoughtful and meaningful, as I’m choosing to ditch the social ‘I have to buy’ expectation. My kids and I are giving money to many worthy charitable causes in the name of all the people we are expected to buy gifts for this Christmas.
And what did Hoss learn yesterday? Did he walk away yesterday feeling loved and supported or feeling like a failure because he didn’t accomplish the mission set before him? Is he wrestling because he enjoys it or because he’s trying to appease his parents? Are we celebrating Christmas for the right reasons? Once Christmas day arrives, what have we achieved? More stuff, less joy and in most cases, a lot of debt. Are we any closer to Christ?
I hope I can feel the Christmas spirit on Christmas day, without my decoder ring. I have some good ideas about how to feel the Christmas spirit, but yesterday’s experience has moved me a little bit away from it.