Cricket finals and trauma: It’s all about perspective

If I told you that a piece of leather hitting a hat was a profoundly traumatic event for me, then you would probably laugh under your breath and hope that I was getting professional help. You would be thinking, “Who could possibly get traumatised by a piece of leather hitting a hat?” And yet, I was, and it is entirely a matter of perspective.

I watched every minute of every game that the Black Caps played throughout the entire 2019 Cricket World Cup. And then, in an absolute travesty of an umpiring decision, I watched them lose the final because a piece of leather hit a hat.

Immediately after the game ended, my wife was sad, but she was not crying and unable to speak. I, on the other hand, was so visibly distraught that my kids woke up and wanted to know what had happened. I was completely unable to offer them any kind of explantation except that the rules of cricket clearly stipulate that if the ball (made of leather) hits a helmet (which is a hat), then you shouldn’t lose the World Cup final.

Although I made these facts crystal clear to my kids, they apparently did not serve as an adequate explanation as to why Dad was lying on the ground, crying and eating cereal out of the box. This led the kids into thinking that something was quite wrong. Had someone died? Were Mum and Dad breaking up? I eventually managed to explain that the reason I was upset was because New Zealand lost a game of cricket.

They were relieved.

I was thrown into another cycle of crying and cereal consumption whilst wondering how to invent time travel.

You see, my wife, my kids and I each experienced that traumatic night differently. My wife cared more about the fact that I woke the kids up than she cared about the cricket. My kids were anxious to find out why I was so upset, and until they did they imagined the worst. And me? I was devastated. And I was also angry at cows, because cows get turned into leather, and a small piece of leather hit a hat. Cows are ruining the world.

All of us perceive the events that impact our lives differently. It is constantly confusing to me that there are people out there who didn’t even watch the cricket World Cup final, let alone the fact that many of them were not as equally devastated by it as I was.

What is true of that fateful cricket match is also true of this latest lockdown; not everyone will be perceiving it in the same way.

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Some people will see it as a third long weekend to start the year. Others may be worrying about the long-term impacts on their kids employability if they don’t properly learn their times tables as a result of missing three days of school. Whilst others will probably see it as even more evidence that our lizard overlords are trying to control us using 5G towers operated by Kevin Costner.

Not all perspectives are helpful.

Everyone will have a different perspective, a different reality, and a different felt experience of this new lockdown, and this is especially true for our children.

The vast majority of our children won’t worry about the long term impacts of another lockdown in the same way that adults will. For the most part, a child’s brain is not yet fully configured to think about the long-term implications of this current lockdown. Of course, some of our kids will be worried, and we’ve written many articles about how to support our more anxious children.

At this stage, it’s important to remind parents that how we frame this latest lockdown, and how we act as a result of it, will likely have a larger impact on our children than the lockdown itself, and that can be both positive and negative.

I love this quote from Maria Konnikova’s article in The New Yorker:

“In a sense, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Frame adversity as a challenge, and you become more flexible and able to deal with it, move on, learn from it, and grow. Focus on it, frame it as a threat, and a potentially traumatic event becomes an enduring problem; you become more inflexible, and more likely to be negatively affected.”

Are you thinking about this latest lockdown as a catastrophic event, or another challenge that your family can overcome and another opportunity to adapt, to learn and to grow? Because how you think about it for yourself and how you frame it for your children can make a significant difference to how it is experienced.

In June this year, COVID willing, I will be watching the Black Caps play in another final. I have had a chance to reflect on what happened last time and, I am better equipped than I have ever been to deal with the outcome of anything that could happen, without needing to lie on the ground crying and binge eat dry cereal.

Not only will this be a vast improvement for me, but it will be better for my kids too. Because leather hitting a hat should never lead to your kids thinking that their parents are breaking up or someone has died. It is all about having a healthy perspective about what is actually happening, and this is just as true for lockdowns as it is for cricket.

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