I guess it all starts innocently enough for most families. People want to be good parents, so when they see an event that corresponds to the interests of their child, it's only natural to figure it's a good idea to get involved.
So it was with the Lego event on March 28, at the Flint Institute of Arts
. More than an exhibition of the ambitious works of the Michigan Lego Users Group, youngsters were invited to bring in their own work and compete for prizes. Sounds simple enough, right?
Well, when the tables finally began filling up with entries, it became obvious that some entrants had been preparing for this contest for a long time. And, looking over the entries in the K-2nd Grade category, one suspected a fair amount of adult help went into several of the pieces on display. Maybe this wasn't the best opportunity for that cool car that looks so neat on the dresser to really shine.
An hour after judging began, the hopeful children followed their parents into an auditorium, where, over the course of a half-hour, 95 percent of them learned that they had lost. The prizes were just cool enough to cause stomachs to sink even further.
The real show, however, was out in the parking lot, watching the walk of shame, with kids from kindergarteners on up clutching their boxed-up creations, looking pale and dejected. It was like hanging out by the casino exit, watching people shamble by who clearly wanted to slit their wrists. And there was a fair amount of melting down and wailing. And probably more than a few parents who wondered why they brought their tots in the first place.
Now, don't get me wrong: I think competition seems like a fair idea for people who know what they're getting into. If you're part of the high school cohort aiming for a Lego win, chances are you've done your homework and know what you're up against. But tossing tots into this maelstrom of competition seems a recipe for hurt feelings.
Just putting this out there for any parents considering one of these competitions: By all means, take the kids, but leave the entries at home … at least until the rug-rats understand what they're up against.