But I Don’t Want My Kid to Lose!

The July 19, 2016, Tallahassee Democrat story which reported a student is threatening legal action because she was not selected for the Leon High School Cheerleading Squad has traveled far beyond our county’s boundaries. (It’s in Buzzfeed, the New York Daily News, and Teen Vogue, to name just a few publications which have shared the piece.)

In one comment I read on Facebook, a Leon Alum shared with his fellow alums, “I am just PRAYING there is another Leon High School out there,” citing how embarrassing it was for this story to be prominent on a local site in a state far from Florida. Nope, friend, that’s “our” Leon. (I am a proud parent of a Leon alum, hold the school in high regard, and would prefer the national stories to highlight Leon’s fabulous positive assets, like the Mane Event’s version of I Want You Back).

The Dissatisfied Cheerleader (and the Dissatisfied Cheerleader’s Mom)

After reading hundreds of comments which all essentially said some version of “suck it up buttercup,” “this is the problem with kids today,” and “her parents aren’t doing her any favors,” I’m at a bit of a loss re: what to add. My sentiments are, in many ways, aligned with theirs.

But if you know me, you know I love a blogging challenge, so I decided to take a page out of Mama Kat’s book and give this situation a soundtrack (she had a June writing prompt encouraging bloggers to “create a summer playlist”).

Track One: High School Student Wants To Be Able to Say “We Are Cheerleaders”

I definitely empathize with a high school student who wants to be a cheerleader. I did not try out for cheerleading at my high school until I was a rising senior. To this day, 35 years later, I can still feel how my gut was clenching with nerves as I sat in class waiting for tryout time. I did make it, and am SO glad to have the memory of being part of the cheer squad at my school. But I went to a very small high school; there’s no way my rudimentary skills would have qualified me at a large school like Leon. I can only imagine how fierce the competition is. I understand (I think) how fervently this student hoped to make the team for her senior year.

Track Two: The Student Did Not Make the Squad

According to the story, the student, a rising high school senior who cheered for Leon last year, tried out for the 2016-17 squad and was not selected. According to the story, she fell twice during the tumbling portion of the tryouts. The song says it best: you can’t always get what you want.

Track Three: Mama’s Not Happy (Daddy Either)

In Faint, Linkin Park sings, “Don’t turn your back on me I won’t be ignored.” By escalating the issue and filing a complaint with Leon County Schools, this student and her family have made it clear they have not accepted the decision of the tryout panel.

Track Four: To Reiterate, Mama’s Not Happy (Daddy Either)

Sorry y’all, there are just too many great “angry rock songs” to stop at one. Some of the lyrics of this one just seem so custom-made for the situation:

  • I am fueled by all forms of failure (note: not saying this kid is a failure in general, but in this case of the tryout, she failed to make the team)
  • I’ll take what’s mine
  • The reasons why you passed me by/Will always hold you down

These parents (and this student) want her on the team even though she did not meet the criteria to make it. They want to take “what is hers” (even though it isn’t).

Track Five: Teaching Your Child to Accept Disappointment is One of Parenting’s Hardest Responsibilities

Truth: One of the reasons I have yet to comment publicly on this story is the fear that one of my children’s former teachers will call me out. I have done my FAIR SHARE of helicoptering and trying to shield my children from disappointment. All I can say is we grow, learn, and evolve as parents. Yes, I complained when my son didn’t get recognized in the first grade science fair (I know … this was so much more about my hurt feelings than his). Knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn’t!

But I do know that taking this particular route, especially if the parents complained to the district office before trying to address via the coach and principal (I can’t confirm who they talked to (if anyone) before going to the district), when by all accounts their child simply did not qualify, doesn’t teach their child anything about accepting the outcome and moving on.

Teaching the child well in this situation, in my opinion, would involve a) providing support at a time of disappointment, b) exploring (if the student is open to it) what she could have done differently in order for this to be a growth experience, and c) taking the high road (not badmouthing the students who DID make it, remaining civil to the coach, supporting the school, etc.).

Track Six: Is This Entire Generation an Entitled Mess?

SO many of the comments, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, were some variation of “that sense of entitlement is the problem.” There’s a whole song about that, so of course it needs to be part of this post! (The song is really about some other issues besides the cheerleading tryout issue, but how could I not include a song called “Entitled”?). Relevant lyrics:

  • It’s not all about you
  • You’re not entitled to anything
  • You actually believe the world owes you somethin’
  • You’re not entitled to anything. You’re just like me.
  • The world owes you nothin’

Track Seven: We May Disagree But We Still Must Lean on Each Other

I don’t want to close out this playlist on the “entitled” concept. I had some difficulty choosing a song to represent how the student involved in this situation is STILL a child deserving of our compassion and nurturing. Her parents are STILL community members and are part of the fabric of who we are as a community, making Tallahassee the wonderful place it is. We still have to lean on each other.

As I have thought about this post this week, I reminisced about people who were honest with me about situations with my children, even when I was strident or accusatory. About Judy Kuhnle, who sent a patiently worded email explaining the qualities a gymnast needed to move on to the next level (strength, flexibility, and teachability). About Kelly Tucker who knew my kid well and picked up the phone to talk with me personally when I had suggested he do a tennis activity he was in no way ready for (which is what she told me — it was pretty easy to digest since I knew she was coming from a place of concern). About all the other people in this town who have been part of educating, training, and nurturing my kids (and, concurrently, me as a parent).

If we all go off to our separate corners, hurling accusations at one another, it’s unlikely that situations will be resolved positively and it’s highly likely that the students involved will learn nothing that will help them navigate a world that is, to be frank, often ugly, unyielding, and certainly not generous in delivering on outcomes we haven’t earned.

And fortunately, “trying out” to be a caring community member is as easy as cheering each other on, in victory AND defeat.

NOTE: In a conversation with Amanda Curcio, the reporter who produced the original story, she clarified the statement, “She didn’t initially make the varsity team last year…” The clarification: “The girl was not originally selected last year to be a cheerleader. But her parents made a similar complaint and [she] was put on the team – after not making it at the tryouts. The head coach who is there now was hired after this…”

Cheerleader Tryout Protest

Don’t Be Poky About College Tuition Planning

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.

Don't Be Poky About College Tuition Planning

A friend of mine has a new baby daughter, and friends throughout the nation are donating books to the library at his town’s elementary school in her honor. When I went to buy the books I am donating, I went to our Barnes and Noble here in Tallahassee because they are participating in a statewide book fair benefiting the Florida Prepaid College Foundation.

I chose a Poky Little Puppy book because that little puppy always pulled at my heartstrings. I chose Flat Stanley because I loved doing Flat Stanley with my kids. And I chose Who Was Anne Frank? because it was The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank that first opened my eyes to the lessons of the Holocaust and instilled my drive to become a woman who believed, like Anne, “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

My friend’s daughter will, in a blink, find herself moving on from the Poky Little Puppy to these books as she prepares for college:

Don't Be Poky About College Tuition Planning

As I wrote in my first Blogger Believer post, because my parents bought a Florida Prepaid plan for my daughter when she was a newborn, our family had the security of knowing that her tuition would be paid for when she enrolled at Valdosta State University.

As the February 28 deadline to purchase a Florida Prepaid College plan approaches, please take a minute to consider these two action steps if you are a Florida resident with a child in your life who plans to go to college.

Enter The Florida Prepaid Scholarship Giveaway by February 18!

The Florida Prepaid College Foundation is having a scholarship giveaway!  Ten winners will each receive a 1-Year Florida University Plan. You can enter the giveaway daily via this link. Don’t be poky like the little puppy; enter by February 18!

Enroll in the Florida Prepaid College Plan by February 28!

Open enrollment closes on February 28, 2015. Prices are currently the lowest they have been since 2007. There are five plans from which to choose, including a new 1-Year Florida University Plan costing as little as $43 a month for a newborn.

For more information, visit the Florida Prepaid College Plan by clicking here. If you prefer to speak with someone by phone, please call 800-552-GRAD (4723).

Now that Tenley is a freshman in college and Wayne is a sophomore in high school, I miss the days of the Poky Little Puppy, learning about the world through Flat Stanley, and helping my kids navigate those first forays into history. As a family, we have turned the page on that time of our lives.

If your child’s education plan has unwritten chapters, consider a Florida Prepaid Plan for a happy ending.

Don't Be Poky About College Tuition Planning

We Can’t All Be Santa

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.  

Cropped Santa Mail

I don’t remember exactly what Wayne put on his Santa list in 2005, when he was in first grade. I am sure the general theme was “transportation” as in toy trains, remote-controlled cars, and anything else that had wheels, made noise, or (ideally) moved while making noise. All items on the list were meant to be enjoyed “RIGHT NOW.”

First Graders Aren’t Worried About College

First graders aren’t worried about the distant realities of college tuition, how they will pay for their residence hall when they are 18, or the advantage of “current plan pricing.”

First graders don’t know:

  • Individuals with bachelor’s degrees earn an average of $23,700 a year more than those without, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
  • A recent Georgetown University study estimates that a student with a bachelor’s degree can earn $1.6 million more in their lifetime than a student with only a high school diploma
  • It’s projected by a study from Georgetown University that by 2018, 59 percent of jobs in Florida will require post-secondary education
  • In 2013, the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders was 4 percent. For those with only a high school diploma, it was 7.5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics

I don’t know Santa’s academic credentials, and good for him that he’s got his gig pretty locked down (and oh the cookie benefits!). But he’s certainly the exception to this general truth:

Graph

The Gift of a College Education

Purchasing a Florida Prepaid College Plan for your child now is a gift that will long outlast the stuff that kids beg to see from Santa. As I wrote in my last post about Florida Prepaid, my parents bought Florida Prepaid College Plans for my children with lump sum payments of around $7,000 when they were infants. That investment will result in approximately $32,000 worth of college education for each of them.

I know it’s a hectic time of year for all of us. I know that part of the fun of sharing the holidays with our children is indulging in some of their favorite “gotta have it now” treats. I’ll tell you what ….. there’s a way to secure your children’s educational future and free up some cash for a treat.

Enrollment Fee Waived!

Sign up for your Florida prepaid plan before December 31 and the $50 enrollment fee will be waived*. It’s almost like found money! (Your prepaid payments won’t begin until April 2015.)

For more information, visit the Florida Prepaid College Plan by clicking here. If you prefer to speak with someone by phone, please call 800-552-GRAD (4723).

education gift

*The Open Enrollment period closes on February 28, 2015, but the enrollment fee waiver ends December 31, 2014.

The Gift of Security

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.  

prepaid college

Photo Credit: Sarah Stephens Photography

At 18 months, my daughter Tenley had the security of a favorite stuffed animal. At 17 years, she was poised to enroll as a freshman at Valdosta State University, with her tuition already taken care of through the Florida Prepaid College Plan.

My parents bought the Florida Prepaid College Plan for Tenley with a lump sum payment of around $7,000 when she was an infant. That investment will result in approximately $32,000 worth of college education. The ultimate security.  

A Grandparent’s Gift

When I asked him about his choice to purchase Florida Prepaid College Plans for my children when they were infants, my dad said, “I am not a financial genius; however, I was fortunate enough to have the money to invest in our grandchildren’s future.”

Maybe it isn’t genius level to make such a stellar and long-lasting investment, but it is certainly smart if you ask me!

More About Florida Prepaid

The Florida Prepaid College Plan kicked off Open Enrollment on October 15. The Open Enrollment period closes on February 28, 2015. There are two incredible new changes this year:

  • Prices are at their lowest point since 2007 (as much as 50% lower)!
  • There is a NEW 1-Year Florida University Plan with a monthly payment of $43.30 for newborns.

In addition, the $50 application fee for newly opened plans will be waived through December 31, 2014!

Although my parents chose the lump sum option and started when Tenley and Wayne were infants, there are a variety of payment plans for children of all ages. (And payments don’t begin until April 2015.)

For more information, visit the Florida Prepaid College Plan by clicking here. If you prefer to speak with someone by phone, please call 800-552-GRAD (4723).

I am a Blogger Believer because a Florida Prepaid College Plan has been one of the primary factors in securing my children’s future.

What are your dreams for your child’s future?

prepaid college

 

Just Put Me Down! (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

Mama's

My Mama Kat prompt this week is:  I thought my child was going to _______, but instead he/she _______.

Pretty much every day of my parenting life, I think one of my children is going to do something a particular way, but instead they put their own (often completely opposite) twist on it.

This prompt, though, immediately takes me back to Tenley’s infancy.

My first time out as a parent of an infant, I approached motherhood with the idea that if I just found the right thing to do when she cried or was otherwise uncomfortable, then I could give her infant self some relief.

She must have been quite young the day of this incident, because I was trying to figure out how to put the portacrib together. We were planning to spend the night at my parents’ house, and I wanted to make sure I could figure out how to put the thing together without an audience.

The thing was so frustrating — there were bars under all the cushy padding that were supposed to lock into place but if you didn’t do things in the right order, they would not lock.

I. was. so. frustrated.

And the fact that my infant was inconsolable was not helping one bit. I tried walking her, feeding her, changing her, every infant-placating activity I could think of.

With the clock tick-tocking its way down to my departure time, I decided I would just have to put her down so I could figure out the portacrib, whether she was “happy” or not.

With trepidation, I put her down in her baby seat and within seconds she was sound asleep.

What she needed was to be left alone.

That was a time when I thought my baby was going to keep screaming her head off, but instead she relaxed and fell asleep. In her baby head, she was probably grateful beyond words that her Type A mother had just stopped trying so damn hard.