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

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Seven “Humbugs” and a “Ho Ho HOLD” on the Snark

I really enjoyed preparing the four posts I submitted to 12Most, such as this one about twelve great vine videos. There was one draft that never came to fruition, though, because every time I started writing it, I began feeling like its negativity would outweigh its informational value and that I may hurt the feelings of people I care about.

Writing about the topic I addressed in that draft on my personal blog seems a little less offensive, though, since I can just say my opinion and not be representing an entire cadre of writers. I am just going to get it out of my system once and move on (with, of course, a segue to a somewhat more positive ending).

The Humbug Part

I believe we have made some life events that are simply that, life events, hyperpublic and over produced. In doing, there is a danger that the personal, unique, cherished nature of these events may be diluted in favor of the public, commonplace, “how-could-I-top-that” qualities. These events include:

Promposals

A promposal is an invitation to the prom that is elaborate enough to be classified as a proposal. There are some examples here. The high school student seen here had her intended date pulled over, had the cop fake an arrest, and waited in the back of the car with a sign that said “prom.”

My humbug about promposals: First of all, what if the intended date says no? Secondly, as much as I love a theme and a fun creative project, I am still just as charmed by a young man who approaches a young woman in person and simply says, “Will you come to prom with me?”

Prom Photo Sessions 

Prom photos have become more and more sophisticated (so click here to see what I mean).

My humbug about elaborate high school dance photo sessions:  If the girl felt beautiful, the guy felt handsome, and the family could afford the dollars, what does it matter? These sessions have an “engagement photo-like” feel that seems out of place for couples who may not be embarking on a long-term romance.

Marriage Proposals 

Maybe it is the ubiquitous nature of YouTube and our ability to create and share video documentation of our lives. Something is happening that has resulted in a proliferation of marriage proposals that goes far beyond one individual getting down on bended knee and asking the other individual to spend a life together.

For example, a sand art proposal whose story can be found here.

marrymekelly

For more “beyond bended knee” proposals, click here.

My humbug: My humbug about this one is a little challenging to define. So many of the ones I have seen are full of love and beautifully done. These people are old enough to be somewhat confident the relationship will “stick,” which differentiates them from the high school students referred to earlier. I think I would distill my opinion down to: make sure you spend as much time clarifying that you feel the same way about money, kids, and sex as you do editing your proposal video.

Pregnancy Announcements 

When I got pregnant in 1995 and 1998, the  news traveled the “old fashioned” way–by word of mouth, phone call, email, and snail mail. This is no longer the case. Pregnancy announcements now fly over cyberspace as quickly as you can press “like” on a Facebook status or retweet someone on Twitter. The graphics behind these shares are pretty darned creative (like these).

My humbug: This is another one where I am blown away by the creativity but simultaneously a little taken aback. Maybe it’s the fact that such rapid shares separate the prospective parent from the recipient of the news. Half the fun of announcing your pregnancy is seeing the expression on the other individual’s face. I’m not sure 50 “likes” can do exactly the same thing.

Gender Reveals 

Putting aside those disciplined people who wait  until their baby is born to find out its gender (I was not one of them), the “gender reveal” process has gotten complicated! Here are three themes on one Pinterest Gender Reveal Board:

Ties or Tutus

Cupcake or Stud Muffin

Boots or Bows

For more including a gender “lottery,” click here.

My humbug: I am pretty sure the first gender reveal party I saw was on television. I can’t remember which celebrity it was, but the event was elaborate. There was a Hollywood party planner, caterer, favors, tents, the entire festivity checklist. Now I see them routinely on social media. Again, nothing is really damaged but having a gender reveal party but it seems easy to lose the exceptionally personal nature of the moment.

Maternity Photo Sessions 

I have seen some gorgeous maternity photos (such as these). What a beautiful way to commemorate that moment in a family’s life.

My humbug: My humbug is with the unduly revealing ones such as these. I am not a prude about the female body, especially the beauty of the pregnant female body but there is something about these photos that makes me feel like an invader (and I know, I can just “not look”).

Using A Baby’s Name Before They’re Born

Perhaps it is because we can now personalize pretty much anything that a baby is often given items with his or her name on them while they are in utero.

My humbug: I don’t know if this is a southern superstition or what, but I have always been leery of applying a child’s name to a product until they have been born. I am sure my feelings are influenced by having lost two pregnancies and by my mom’s having lost a baby, but loss happens. I just feel like it’s tempting fate.

In many of these cases, maybe my issue is green (and not the fun green of Christmas), but the green of envy. Since I couldn’t afford to throw a gender reveal party, for example, does that feed my humbugosity? If so, I own that but don’t think that’s the root of my opinion.

Switching Gears to the Positive

Since it’s Christmas, let’s address the most ubiquitous over-the-top phenomenon this time of the year, the Elf on the Shelf, who is hovering around many homes this season:

Thanksgiving Day Parade

Over the past few years, I have found myself increasingly thankful that the EotS wasn’t a “thing” when my teenagers were little. If it had worked to modify my kids’ behavior, though, maybe I would have bit.

My world, in-person and on social media, is filled with über creative types. These adults have possibly missed their calling in production design for major motion picture houses. For example, toilet fishing:

tumblr_lw1fazz8h51r755nso1_500

Source: www.diycandy.com

Toilet fishing is almost rudimentary compared to the attention to detail of my friend Diary of a Mom (I mean would you look at those little tiny oxygen tubes coming out of “Hazel’s” nasal passages?).

THEN there are the “alternate” EotS folks, who do tableaus like this (this was one of the tamer ones! Visit the Good Time Elf Facebook Page to see the others.):

for-a-good-time-elf

The voices of the Elf on the Shelf detractors are louder than ever this year (at least it seems that way to me). This article, for example, outlines one parent’s view.

I have had the elf skeptic conversation with friends on Facebook about EotS. We all gleefully pile on (yes, me included), smirking our disdain for the effort, the misguidedness, the adult energy, time and effort required for a “children’s” phenomenon.

Here’s my Ho Ho HOLD the snark point: I am through snarking about EotS.  He isn’t for me, but if he had been a “thing” when my kids were little, I may very well have given in and loved every minute of it.

I have had teachers say EotS is a “friend” in the classroom, someone the kids love and enjoy. I see families I care about and respect enjoying the heck out of creating their EotS scenarios. I see kids who *may* be doubting Santa’s existence still looking forward to their elf’s whereabouts in the morning.

It’s not for me, but there’s enough snark this holiday season (and, let us admit, all year long). If EotS is your thing, enjoy! I’ll even send you a Big Green Pen for your elf’s use if you’re running out of ideas!

snark santa

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.