A lot of times, people forget what it was like to be a kid. And by kid I mean anywhere from 1 to...oh say 20. It is not easy to be a kid or teenager or young adult or whatever, okay? People often think it is because from an adult prospective it seems like the problems and issues are easy and minor and trivial. And that probably true when you are dealing with adult problems and issues. But to kids going through the experience, it can be extremely difficult. An important function of any school system is not only academic education but social education and acclimation. The ins and out of the social scene in a building where hundreds of people with vastly different stories and backgrounds are forced together helps teach kids how to handle themselves vís a vís other people in society. Unfortunately, the people in that arena - and by this I mean the other kids - aren't mature. So the rules you have to play by are a little different. That is why things often turn out badly when parents stick their noses in and try to help. For one, it sort of takes away that whole social learning aspect, plus parents don't know the special rules. And I think that is what happened here.
Brandy Day is an 18-year old senior at Harker Heights High School in Killeen, Texas. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy from the waist down when she was three. Since then, through effort and physical therapy she has learned to walk without crutches and braces and even the special shoes that she generally has to wear. As one could imagine, it could not have been an easy road. Aside from the physical pain and discomfort, one could image that there is a fair amount of teasing that has gone on from her peers - from good-natured ribbing from friends to the truly and intentionally cruel. Then there is the aspect that she has never been able to truly compete with her peers on a physical level. She never would have stood a chance in basketball, swimming, etc. That makes for a tough road to hoe. So when Brandy's mom found out that Brandy was trying out for prom queen she thought that this was something that Brandy could win and decided that she was going to throw some time and resources behind her daughter.
And that is fine. And I sort of think that if this campaign had been managed correctly Brandy probably could have won as prom queen, or at least made the final three. I really do. Then this would be a feel-good story and we in the blogosphere could all be bitching and moaning about how people are so uplifted because someone with mild cerebral palsy won prom queen whereas if she was just some regular kid no one would care. But that is not how it went down. Brandy's mother Tammy just didn't understand the special set of rules in kid society and it all went horribly awry.
It started out well enough, it really did. Brandy made fliers and posters to hang up and distribute at school (pretty standard). The two canvassed neighborhoods and hung fliers in businesses (a little bit excessive but not beyond the bounds of good taste). Then Brandy joked about a billboard and mom ran with it. That is where this whole thing took a wrong turn. The billboard went up on the highway near the school, and I am pretty sure that I saw in an ABC News piece that there was an advertisement in the paper.
|The billboard in question.|
Putting up a billboard with your picture on it is like putting a ridicule target on your back. It is just never a good idea. And I am sure Brandy knew that, because she brought up the idea as a joke at first. But mom didn't understand the kid rules. Tammy told ABC News "If you're going to do it, give it 150%." She spent over $1000 on Brandy's campaign. And that is a fine maxim but putting your daughter's picture on a prom billboard is not the way to do it. It violates Rule #1. Mom thought she was helping, and by adult rules she was. But she didn't understand the kid rules. By that set she was sinking the ship. And that is a shame, because I really do believe that Tammy's heart was in the right place. I believe that her intentions were good. I don't think this is one of those situations with an overbearing parent trying to live out his/her high school fantasy vicariously through the child. But it doesn't matter. It didn't turn out right. Mom just didn't understand the rules.