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Opinion Why you should not let your kids stay up to watch Raptors Game 6

There are rational and kind reasons for letting your kids stay up until midnight to watch the Toronto Raptors on Thursday.

I’m sure you’ve heard them: It’s a family-bonding opportunity. Your kids will share in a major cultural moment. It allows them to taste, in real time, the umami of victory. It shows them that rules are negotiable – even bedtime! – and that you, their parents, aren’t inflexible jerks.

Sound arguments, all. They’re also completely wrong.

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If you’re a Raptors fan and a parent, you have one job tomorrow: Get your kids’ butts in bed at the regular time.

We already messed up Game 5. Don’t jinx Game 6.

I’m talking to you: The parents who have been dutifully sending your kids upstairs at something approximating their normal bedtimes throughout this campaign – and especially on school nights – yet recklessly let it ride on Monday (and posted fate-tempting pics of your jammy parties on Instagram). Sleep hygiene be damned! Let them get late slips!

Fathers like Bryan Dawson, who works as a teacher for the Thames District Valley School Board in London, Ont. He texted the parents of his sixth-grade students with an urgent homework assignment: “Let your kids stay up to watch history!!!! GO RAPTORS GO!!!!”

And the Raptors lost. Thanks, Bryan.

I share blame in this karmic catastrophe. I’ve put our youngest son to bed after the first quarter of every game at least since the third game of the third round. Every time this has happened, they’ve won. Actually, Game 7 versus Philly, too.

There have been three exceptions to our game-night routine. Game 5 of the conference finals (win). Game 2 of the finals (loss). And Monday night, when we let him watch the entire game.

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According to my spreadsheet, that’s a 100-per-cent success rate for the regular schedule and a 67-per-cent failure rate for the late-night exceptions. That’s not superstition. That’s empirical proof. Now multiply that by a few million missed bedtimes.

It may be even more insidious. On Monday night at a multifamily viewing party, Jibran Khoker, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Guelph, told me his friend’s daughters began chanting “Let’s go, Golden State!” They wanted the series to go the distance so they can continue staying up late. We’ve incentivized our children to root for a loss.

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Of course I understand the urge to let your kids stay up.

Bryan told me that he wants his own kids to experience what he did when the Blue Jays won the 1992 World Series. He was in the SkyDome, watching on the Jumbotron (the Jays were playing in Atlanta). He’ll never forget the sight of people rushing the empty field.

Jibran attended more than 30 home games during the 2009-10 season as part of the Raptors Fanatics, when the team was literally giving tickets away to fans to cheer for a losing team. He hopes his kids have inherited that obsessive gene. So he was pleased to see his six-year-old, a DeMar die-hard, develop a begrudging appreciation for Kawhi.

For Stephanie A.G. Clark, a parent in Oakville, Ont., it’s been a chance to inculcate the unspoken rules of good fandom – “no trash-talking the opposition, and to never call a game before it’s over” – and have together time where everyone’s on the same page for once (unlike, say, movie night).

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In my home, it’s been a blessed generator of the kinds of inside jokes that bind a family. Mafuzzy Chef. The Tangerine spokes-voice. “Who are these guys?” Board man gets paid. Marc Gasol’s faces of grievance. Spicy P’s face of peanut-butter-sandwich theft. Nick Nurse’s press-conference outfit change. That time my wife shouted “Allons-y!” at Chris Boucher during garbage minutes. All the weird shorthand that emerges when a family spends that much time watching sports together in the basement.

It’s been the best kind of screen time – “age-appropriate, co-viewed with family, and watched with purpose and limits,” as the new Canadian Paediatric Society guidelines describe it.

These playoffs have been magic sauce for families like mine.

But if we’ve learned anything from this year’s Toronto Raptors, it’s the primacy of treating every game with the same mindset. Consistency wins games. Steady effort wins games.

At the end of the first quarter on Thursday, I’ll take our eight-year old upstairs. He’ll change into his pyjamas and brush his teeth. I’ll read him one chapter of Who Is Bugs Potter? My wife will tuck him in. We’ll return to the basement to join our older two kids.

Throughout the playoffs, the team has repeated variations of a mantra: “Job’s not done.”

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Put your damn kids to bed on time tomorrow. Job’s not done.

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