Are You Suffering From FOKMO?

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 10.10.49 AMBecause, I guess, I’ve made a career out of complaining (proving the adage that everybody is good at something) friends, random strangers, and Target employees quite frequently enjoy sharing their latest outrage with me. It usually starts with, “You’re not going to believe this.”

I act appropriately to their story and by this I mean I shake my head and say, “Are you kidding me?” But more often than not I’m thinking yikes, I can so see myself doing that or much worse, I have done that.

The latest missive of shock and awe that came my way was a mother sharing the insanity of her sister-in-law who was canceling a long-awaited family vacation because her eight-year-old son made a Little League All Star team and couldn’t afford to miss practice. She was all WTH about it and how crazy we had gotten as parents that our family priorities were skewed towards a third graders recreational sports schedule.

I did my “are you kidding me” thing and then felt sheepish for not attempting to defend the sister-in-law. That’s right defend because I saw what happened five years ago when a friend of mine opted to take a family vacay to Hawaii instead of having her, then elementary school, son play on the All Star team. It was a long and winding road of retribution.

Because of “Vacationgate” the next spring when it came to the Little League “draft” her son was not selected until the last round and at the first practice the coach (a dad who lived down the street and was an assistant pastor at their church) came up to the mom and solemnly shared with her that “no one had wanted her son because of the family’s egregious lack of commitment to the league” and then quoted some bible story from the book of Malachi. (Umm, am I the only one who didn’t know there was a book of Malachi?)

Then even when her kid killed it during the regular season hitting home run after home run and being an amazing first baseman he was not selected for the All Star team and the mom was told once again it was because of the “bailing on the team” the previous summer. It took the family years and getting their son in a competitive baseball league for the stench of the “Vacationgate” to finally dissipate.

This level of extra curricular crazy is, I’m afraid, the norm and has led parents in massive numbers to be afflicted with FOKMO – Fear Of Kid Missing Out. FOKMO is like FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) but a million times more intense because it’s about your kids. I mean really once you have children who cares if you’re missing out, but, by God and all that is holy, you don’t want your kid to be a single rider in the not included lane.

I believe FOKMO, fueled by its evil sidekick Social Media, is the number one reason why our children’s summers are so bloated with organized activity. In this day and age is there anything worse than admitting your kid has the big Z.E.R.O. going on? I think for many moms and dads it’s akin to admitting you suck as a parent. If you want to see a group of moms throw down just mention how your kids are so busy and then step back and watch the one-upmanship.

Listen I’m not judging. I’m as guilty as everyone else. Raise your hand if you’ve ever had to sign a contract stipulating your attendance, dedication, and obedience to your child’s sports activity. Yeah, my hand is now raised and I can only imagine what my mother would have done decades ago if someone had asked her to sign such a thing. She was a southern lady so it wouldn’t have been hoisting her middle finger, but I’m sure she would said something along the lines of  “Well bless your heart” then she would have gently returned the contract unsigned.

Why is it that our parents never suffered from FOKMO? Was it because they were smarter and  knew the value of boredom? A dollop of boredom allows your brain to recharge, to wander and to create. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that my very best ideas have occurred while vacuuming. Now, I feel like as parents we have been conned into believing if our kids aren’t constantly doing a planned activity it will culminate in an embarrassing ACT score.

Recently I put myself in FOKMO rehab. Mainly because FOKMO takes up a lot of time. To be a stellar FOKMO parent you constantly have to be searching for new opportunities for your child and be on high alert for what everyone else is doing. These days I think I’d rather vacuum.


14 thoughts on “Are You Suffering From FOKMO?

  1. irreverendt says:

    As the designated “soccer mom” in our family I absolutely concur. This summer my 11 year old grandson has spent 7 blissful weeks doing next to nothing. We have insisted on occasional breaks for this Pokemon thing with some time spent reading but it has been a breath of fresh air to know that he can live without FOMO.

  2. Natalie B. says:

    I also had to sign a “contract” for my son to play soccer. WTF on that and the bigger WTF I just signed it and turned the contract in with a $500 check. As parents we have lost our minds.

  3. YesISaidThat says:

    This is just another reason why I’m glad I can’t have children. I can’t tell you how many of my friends complain about how jam packed their schedules are because of their kids extra curricular activities. Activities that include boy scouts, 4h, baseball, soccer, dance classes, gymnastics classes, piano lessons and on and on and on. When I say “you could have told your kid no” or I tell them their kids don’t need to be in all those activities I get the stunned “how dare you say that” look. I really don’t want to hear you complain that you can’t go to Aunt Fanny’s second cousin twice removed daughter’s home product party because you have to be at your kids’ (insert activity).

  4. Quincy says:

    We were FOKMO for years and then we decided to take our weekends back and as a family we have never regretted our decision.

  5. Grief Happens says:

    Omg. So true. I got the side-eye from team parents this summer cause my kids didn’t participate in last swim meet of season and I emailed the morning of. One was on antibiotics for strep and the other had been hugging the toilet the night before with some gawd-awful stomach virus. I considered keeping them home a favor to other team members, but obviously around these parts I’m in the minority. Guess what team we won’t be joining next summer? — I say this, but if my kids lose their minds and want to participate, against my better judgement, I’ll likely concede. The level of crazy has reached a new level I’m afraid. I already feel like my kids do less than their classmates, but I just didn’t get that commitment gene when it comes to first-grade sport teams.

  6. Allison L Alti says:

    Great article. I have scaled down my kid’s activities to once per week piano lessons, which he loves. 2 recitals a year. Cannot imagine having multiple week practices and weekend games for elementary school aged kids. High school I can see, but I think too many activities for young kids leads to burnout.

  7. Carla says:

    It’s already starting and my son is 2! ” have you taken him to the water park yet?” No. How about the amusement park? No. The zoo? No. Bounce house? No. Ahhhhh it makes me crazy! He’s too young for all that in my opinion. What will we do at 3 that will excite him, if we are doing it now? I let him play. In the backyard or at a playground, the pool and the small spray park. He loves it! He plays with neighbor kids his age and at the daycare at the gym. He’s socialized. He doesn’t need overstimulated. He’s the happiest, smartest and most content child I know. But somehow SM puts that tickle of doubt in my brain when I see others taking newborns to snapology. Then I smack myself and have a cocktail.

  8. Scott says:

    At the risk of getting my ass chewed I felt the need to point out from my perspective as a Little League coach and commissioner that when parents pull their kids from All Star games or practices it lets us know we should have given another kid a chance who would have been thrilled to play and would have done anything for the opportunity. No one wants a kid on their team whose parents see Little League as extra day care or just something to do when they feel like it.

    • Summertime Snoozin says:

      Ya, just not getting the point are you? It’s Little League, not major league. Just because a kid misses a practice or has a life outside of baseball and doesn’t feel the need for All Star glorification doesn’t mean they aren’t committed to the team. Dial it back a little buddy.

      • Robert Ziegler says:

        Dear Summertime Snoozin,

        It’s timely that I read your comments during the 2016 Little League World Series. I’m 100% with Scott, and I have to add that your comments unfairly judge the kids and their families who relish and enjoy and commit to Little League All-Star baseball — the camaraderie with teammates; the competition against other Little League teams, starting at the District level with teams from nearby towns; the challenge of playing baseball at a higher level than experienced in the local league; and the honor of representing the hometown league. Your pejorative characterization of “All Star glorification” takes no account of the real pleasure that boys and their families can derive from this experience.

        Little League International has participation rules for tournament (All-Star) teams that are much more strict than for regular season teams in the local leagues. Volunteer coaches and organizers like Scott (and me) have to abide by those rules when they put All-Star teams together, and “availability” is one of three equally important criteria (along with “ability” and “attitude”) that we have always applied in my town when selecting among candidates. I’ve never had an issue when boys on my regular season teams miss a practice or a game once in a while for “life outside baseball”, especially for family reasons. However, All-Star teams are different by rule and design, so that teams can abide by Little League International’s tight tournament schedule as they progress from District to Section to State to Regional to World Series levels of play. Compared to the regular season, All-Star tournaments run on a short and compressed schedule with very little slack for off-time (especially when bad weather interferes and make-up games start to pile up). We would hate to forfeit a game because we didn’t have enough boys to field a full team. And because we teach the boys to work together and to depend on each other as teammates, it’s important that they are all present for All-Star team practices so that they can play their best as a team on game days.

        Over the years I have had a number of families turn down my invitation (on behalf of our league) for their sons to play on our tournament teams. Family summer commitments were overwhelmingly the reasons for this decision, and I have NEVER judged a family who made that call. If the adults running the league subsequently hold that decision against a boy in the following season, they’re jackasses plain and simple. But no one should get a pass on these criteria for tournament teams, and if in the following year the boy is invited and his family cannot make the time commitment, then again he will necessarily be left off of the team — with no hard feelings (I hope), and with full respect for that family decision. And as Scott points out, if that happens we will simply extend an invitation to another boy, whose family more often than not will be thrilled to have the opportunity for their son to play.

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