I stopped by Target today to buy cat food and another Juice Box. I found that the prices for the Juice Box accessories had dropped, so I went to customer service to request a price adjustment for the items I’d purchased a few days earlier.
The woman behind the counter fiddled with her register, peered at the receipt and finally informed me that she could not do a price adjustment on my items since they were clearance items.
I paused. Okay, I said, can I return the items and repurchase them at the lower price?
Sure, she said. She punched at her register, did a refund, recalculated the price and handed over fourteen dollars and some change.
Second story, completely unrelated.
Last week, YoungestBoy had a baseball game. This particular game matched them against a superior team. The bases were loaded. The batter smacked the ball directly to the boy playing third base. The adults sprawled on the sideline in collapsible canvas chairs shouted, “Tag the runner! Tag the runner! TAG THE RUNNER!” The boy fumbled around his ankles for the ball, finally gripped it and stood paralyzed by confusion. “TAG THE RUNNER!” The runner ran behind him, reached the base and stood firmly on third base and the light finally dawned for Kendall and he limply tagged the runner. Late. Too late.
Kendall’s face fell and at the same time, the adults began to cheer, “Good job, Kendall! All right! Good job!” I watched Kendall as bewilderment clouded his face. He knew he’d made a mistake. He messed up. And yet, the adults were all cheerfully clapping and exalting his name as a hero.
What’s wrong with this? Are we so afraid to let our kids feel the pain of their mistakes that we cheer anyway? Is this wacky display of false congratulations helpful in any sense of the word? Kendall understood his error, even though the adults brushed off that pesky little truth in favor of a hearty round of applause.
And you know that at the end of the season, all the children will get trophies, even though some of the children are truly horrible baseball players and their teams resemble the Bad News Bears.
What are the kids really learning? I know–it’s not if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game, but what do you learn when the adults falsely cheer your mistake? Do you learn not to trust yourself? Not to trust the adults? Not to believe what you hear?
I just wonder.