You start to hear the whispers when your little one is in preschool. Tennis ladder. What is it? Why is everyone discussing it?
Tennis ladder, put simply, is a Friday night activity at one of the local tennis places. There is roughly 100 spots and kids can sign up to go from 7-9 to eat pizza and play tennis matches, moving up the ladder as they win.
Except that’s not it at all.
It’s the very definition of social engineering- starting in 5th grade when the deposits are given and carpools are arranged. Everyone who’s been through it can remember where they were when they got the text/call/email that it was beginning. The carpool scramble begins.
Some claim they are going to do it by neighborhood. Sorry if it’s your best friend or your kid’s best friend, if you live in the wrong area, you may be screwed. Forget that we all live 10 minutes from each other. Adult friendships are destroyed by this.
Others say they need to keep their child with their friends. Sorry if it’s your neighbor and your kids are friends and hang out every day. You may be screwed. Again, adult friendships are destroyed by this.
There is no rhyme or reason as to how carpools are formed. You’re either in or out. And if you’re out of the carpool you thought you’d be in, the panic starts to set in. Is my child doomed to be a social outcast? Is there something wrong with ME?
(In case you’re wondering why the carpool piece is critical, it’s because BEFORE ladder there are pre-ladder dinners and AFTER ladder there are post-ladder parties. Two or more carpools will get together to eat (remember I mentioned the pizza that’s provided? No one eats that) and then do something after ladder (possibly going for yogurt or just hanging at someone’s house). And it is true- if your carpool has a kid that’s not “in the mix” as many like to say, your carpool will likely not get invited to the “cool” before and after get togethers)
The children are clueless about this. They are not asking for this. They do not need plans from 5:30-11pm every single Friday night. They are 10 years old and most are exhausted after a long day at school.
Let’s go back to the actual ladder because some may say it’s a good idea because the kids are being active. That would be a valid point except that most do not even play tennis. By the third week most are not even bringing their racquets. There is also the very real concern of the lack of supervision. Just last year, my year, there were two serious incidents. By January, there were only 30 kids who registered for the 2nd half.
So why? Why do we continue with something that is exclusionary by nature and that destroys adult friendships year after year? What is the benefit? Is it so those at the top of the social food chain continue to feel good about themselves and their kids?
We all claim we want our kids to sit with the lonely kid in the lunchroom. Are you willing to take that kid into your carpool and risk your child not getting invited to the “right” parties? If not, how can we ever expect our children to befriend those children on a daily basis? If you are stabbing your friend who you text daily and go to dinner with weekly in the back, don’t be surprised when you learn one day that your child has done the same thing. We set the example, good or bad, right or wrong.
There are options. It doesn’t have to continue. An email could be sent out to the grade and parents could sign if they were electing NOT to do tennis ladder so others could see they are not alone.
At the very least, if you are doing something that you know is hurting someone else for whatever the reason (maybe the kids are truly not friends anymore or you live at the west part of Flower Hill and your friend lives in the back of Lakeville Estates and you can’t stomach the extra 10 minutes every six weeks), pick up the phone and discuss it. Do not ignore texts or say, “Oh, I haven’t thought about it,” when everyone knows damn well your carpool is set.
Tennis Ladder is not written in stone. If the community feels unhappy about something, we have the power to change it.