Today is school sports day. It is much earlier this year than it has been previously. This is because the weather has been so bad the past few years, that there have been various postponements, and even totally scraped two years ago.
Last year the whole formant of the event changed. It became proper competitive races, where it had always been every child took part before in relay teams within their class. It was total pandemonium, but it worked, and all the children returned to the school afterwards totally exhausted! I think it was the ultimate organise chaos. However the different format was bought in.
D didn’t take part last year, because he was unwell. I am convinced the sickness was as a result of the stress surrounding it. The previous year, he had been bullied by so-called friends that didn’t want him on their team because he was too slow. He was so upset by this, because what he lacks in ability, he more than makes up for in effort. During the practises for last year, he was name called, and laughed at. We had a lot of tears and upset, and he ended up being sick. I can not say for sure that him being unwell was a direct result of the stress, but it seems quite a coincidence if the two events are not related.
M competed last year, and was very distressed by it. He did his best in all the races he took part, but saw great injustice in the results. He could not help but feel cheated, as he abided by the rules when other children were blatantly cheating without being chastised. He had real problems getting his head around the idea that anyone who had not followed the rules was being rewarded. It stressed him so much that from that day, he started telling me that he didn’t want to take part the following year. Every time anything about it was mentioned, he kept asking not to take part.
As soon as the date was announced for this year, both boys began to panic, and insist they wanted to take the day off. They were told that wasn’t going to happen, and talk began about what if they were sick – M has previously made himself sick to get out of doing things that he really didn’t want to, so it really wouldn’t surprise me if either child went down this route.
D told his teacher he didn’t want to take part – it is so good that he has a teacher he can communicate with. She spoke to me about it, and I explained that the bullying in previous years has given him a mental block towards it, I think she had assumed it was actually something to do with his knees. She suggested he was a helper, so that he was part of the event but not having the stress of having to compete. Based on this conversation, I took the same suggestion for M to the school. It was agreed he also didn’t have to take part in the races if it was going to cause him even more stress than he is already feeling.
Both boys went to school this morning, quite proud that they were helpers – I just hope they find them something interesting to do or it will be freezing standing around on the playing fields.
Sports day has really bad memories for me, and that is why I don’t want my boys to look back on their time at primary school and the main memory be of those difficult afternoons. As the fat kid at school, I was constantly bullied, and sports day seemed to be the day when the main event was humiliating those that couldn’t do as well. In those days, bullying wasn’t take seriously, and the attitude was name calling wasn’t a bad thing – the saying “Sticks and Stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you”, was quoted at me more times than I care to mention when I would get upset by it. We all know verbal bullying can be devastating, and words can stick with you long after bruises have faded.
This is probably why I don’t see the priority of making kids compete. Mental ability isn’t tested in the same way – if I had been put head to head with my counterparts for a mental arithmetic competition, then I am sure I would have done very well!
I hope all children involved have had a great time, and the stress that mine have felt in previous years is not felt by too many today. For those that have found the whole experience difficult, the one piece of advice I offer is that for all my many years, I have never needed to bounce in a sack, or balance an egg on a spoon while walking around, and should I ever be kidnapped and have to escape with one leg tied to another person, then I am sure the skill of the three-legged race will quickly return to me!