Our Class and Money Matters Series has become more than a weeklong initiative here at BeyondBabyMamas.com. It will be an ongoing reading series, allowing minority unmarried mothers to discuss issues of importance to them, around affordable education and extracurricular activities, budgeting, earning disparities, and a host of other issues. Today’s Community Blogger Nicole Aghaaliandastjerdi discusses the challenges of having an athletically exception child whose ability necessitates an overwhelming financial investment. You can help Nicole fund her ten-year-old’s trip to the Junior Olympics here.
We’re taught to give our children more than what we had growing up, and that sacrifice comes with the territory. When you’re a single mother, sometimes providing the basic necessities proves to be a challenge. If you dare to try and go above and beyond by providing them opportunities to not only succeed, but be great, that challenge truly intensifies. But single mothers are tenacious when it comes to providing for their children.
My ten-year-old has harnessed the desire to run ever since her legs could carry her. However, I was not prepared for the expense her passion would incur. For the first time this summer, she’s competed in USATF and AAU track and field. My daughter’s athletic ability is both a blessing and a curse. Nothing makes a parent happier than watching her children grow and achieve in something they love, but the stress of not being able to provide them with the continued opportunity to do so is arduous.
During one of many fundraising excursions, someone told me that if I couldn’t afford it, others shouldn’t have to, either. While I disagree with this statement wholeheartedly, I also see this school of thought in our society that disparages us for wanting more than the basics for our “illegitimate children.” In the eyes of some, their birthright is inadequate already. I am happy to prove them wrong.
My ten-year-old beamed when she learned she qualified to compete in the Junior Olympics at the end of the summer. I rejoiced with her, but I was, and am, incredibly concerned about how she’ll actually get there.
As a team, we need to raise $3,000 by the end of next week. My daughter is one of eleven girls from her track team who qualified to advance to the AAU Track and Field Junior Olympic National Championships in Detroit, Michigan, which starts on July 26. We’ve done car washes, bucket shakes, sold donuts and sports paraphernalia, but we are still short.
Our coach, Coach T, is a single mom of three (ages 16, 15, and 12) who started the track team last year — a group of no more than 15 elite runners — who she tirelessly pours into, both on and off the track, while still giving that same energy to her own children. I asked Coach T if she would mind sharing her wisdom and insight into balancing the world of single parenthood and the ever-increasing costs of competitive sports with me. She graciously obliged.
From the time they were 3, Coach T made it a point to have her children in sports — soccer, basketball, tee-ball, track. You name it, they did it. Coach T didn’t have a financial plan for her children’s sports, and has a limited support system, but her children are talented and she recognized that early on. Today, her 15-year-old daughter still runs track and her 12-year-old son plays AAU basketball.
An advocate for fundraising, Coach T says that it has helped tremendously in providing for her children’s extracurricular activities. She’s written sponsorship letters on her own, participated in bucket shakes, sold peelers and cookie dough- to name a few.
As a parent, her greatest joy has been being able to send her child to a place that they worked hard to get to- whether it was a national championship or an away game. As a coach, her greatest joy has been mentoring young girls. She never turns anyone away due to inability to pay, but instead offers fundraising as a way for children to participate.
When asked what advice she has for single parents struggling to pay for their children’s extracurricular activities, Coach T says communication is key. “You have to communicate with the child’s organization. Talk to the coach. You can actually make a payment arrangement on top of a payment arrangement, and, some camps offer scholarships to children.”
While we are in the thick of fundraising to get to the Junior Olympics, I am grateful to know that, soon, this side of things will be over (until next season).
I’ve learned a lot about myself as a parent, and even more about how single parents are viewed in society. We are not “allowed” to dream for our children. We should just “make do” with what we have and stop asking for handouts.
A fundraising donation is not a handout. It is just that: a donation that can be written off on your taxes. These girls have Olympic dreams, and I am more than willing to help them get there. After all, it still takes a village. While some may think it entirely impractical to spend money on something as inconsequential as sports while simultaneously struggling to provide basic needs, I can tell you that the glint of a dream in a child’s eye says otherwise.
Nicole Aghaaliandastjerdi is the mother of two daughters, ages 10 and 11. Please donate to help her youngest make it to the Junior Olympic competition.