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Itís Black Week (11/24/2013)
By Frances Edstrom

Are you spending Thanksgiving Day shopping, now that the big box stores have taken Black Friday into Gray Thursday? I wonít, unless I have to run to the store because I forgot something. (Note to self: remember to buy turkey.)

I understand why people do shop when the big sales are on. I might be tempted to, except I never have my list ready until December 15. But this is what I donít understand. Why are the big retailers going to ruin Thanksgiving? They want us to shop early for the holidays, and many of them are offering Black Friday deals a week early ó giving us Saturday, Sunday Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday to get our shopping done. Why canít they stay closed on Thanksgiving Day and let us eat turkey with our families in peace?

Obviously, the retail climate is brutally competitive, given the lingering recession. The major news outlets are all happy-happy about ďeconomic indicators,Ē but my personal economic indicators are telling me that things have definitely not returned to pre-recession levels.

Why, though, should we be enticed to forgo a rare opportunity to have some downtime ó no work, eat a great meal, see family we havenít seen for a long time (even the annoying ones), watch football, play with the kids ó to do more shopping. How much shopping can one person do?

Family time is not what it used to be. Some of you will remember a time when stores werenít open on Sundays. What did we do all day? How did we survive it?

In a relatively short time, it seems that nearly all of our societal stressors have conspired to steal our family time. Kids activities, especially sports, are the number one culprit. We want our kids to be active and have fun playing a sport, being part of a team, but why should a 10-year-old, or a 16-year-old, for that matter, practice and play as many days of the week as a professional athlete? Sports and other time-consuming childrenís activities have become far more important in their lives than academics.

An aside: your kidís chance of making a living at professional sports is minuscule. The NCAA released these figures. Of college players, only baseball players have a pretty good chance of going pro ó 11.6% Football ó 1.7%. Ice hockey ó 1.3%. Menís basketball ó 1.2%. Womenís basketball ó .09%. Menís soccer ó 1.0%. Kids, and their parents and coaches, need to learn how to figure percentages, I think.

I guess if my kid were in school right now, Iíd be making sure he got his homework done and paid attention in school, rather than making his high school playing years the only ďbestĒ years of his life. Thereís nothing worse than a high school burn-out. Especially one who blew out his knee and will spend his adulthood in pain.

I am not so naive as to think that we are going to go back to the days of having family meals and large blocks of family time. I do think, though, that institutions could become more family-friendly. Big box stores, schools, coaches, and parents could all easily make a decision that some days are set aside for downtime, that competition and winning are not the sole purposes in life. I donít think I am the only one who would appreciate it.



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