Bring on the Noise


“I think I know what you’re going to decide,” I say, after
I’ve explained her options.

“You do?”

“I’m pretty sure of it.”

“Is it OK? Mommy, is it OK?”

The letter explained that our town will have two cheer
squads this year for the age level of my daughter.  One will be competitive, whose goal will be
to win the national title in their division, and one squad will be non-competitive,
who will cheer at football games.  

Their decision to split into two squads does not surprise me,
since many of the parents of these girls, as young as eight, were outraged at
the pressure the kids were under to perfect a routine that included stunts,
considered dangerous by many, for young girls to perform.   The practices were grueling, two three hours
at a time, four days a week, where full concentration was required and it was
not unheard of for a coach to yell to bring order back to the room.

Competition cheer is serious business.  I’m a soccer mom and a softball mom, but
cheer is an entirely different animal.

The drama and the pressures that I witnessed last season
were reality show material.  

I understood the gravity of the situation going into it for
the first time last year and explained the ramifications to my daughter the
best I could. I never pressured or even suggested that she cheer.   It’s
more or less that last thing I would have advised or even thought she’d want to

As a competition squad, their purpose never revolved around football
games.  They did cheer at games, yet, at
the same time, games were irrelevant. 
They were practicing for something bigger from the beginning.

There are those who would argue that cheering simply to
compete takes away from the true purpose of cheer, which is to encourage an
actual team, playing on a field or court in front of them, and to spread school
or town or team spirit.  Yet, given we
have two options, only one of them makes sense for us.

You all saw me kick and scream last year over the arguments
I had with my girl, the over the top fundraising, the time commitment, and the anxiety over the expense of competition shoes, hair bows, and paying to get us to Florida. There were
tears and fights and exhaustion and fake hair pieces for crying out loud.

But, with that said…

Miss F Cheer 2
I’m letting her compete. 

There’s a difference between doing a good job as a parent
and doing a good job as the parent of my own

And I know my child.

She is raw energy with a soul so big that it’s barely
containable inside that little body.

She’s intense, like her mother, and in order for her to
navigate this world successfully, she needs productive channels in which to
throw her intensity.  Because if not,
she’ll find destructive channels, or the destructive channels will find

Clearly, I’m talking from experience.

Because for each blog post I’ve written or marathon or half
marathon I’ve run or dog I’ve rescued or yoga class I’ve taught, there is
something I’ve done as a child or in my young adult life that was as equally
destructive as those things are productive, because it’s that same little piece
of soul that drives all of those actions.

You can’t change the shape of a person’s soul, but as Miss
F.’s mother, I need to know how to steer gently around its curves and corners
and teach her to do the same.

Miss F.

The most loving thing I can do for my child is allow her to
w herself into cheer and compete with all her heart.

A heart like hers will know great hope and great
disappointment. A heart like hers will hurt more than most after defeat. But it
will also swell with a happiness known to few over each of life’s victories.  A heart like hers needs to embrace the things
and people that will bring her both challenges and joy and provide a place
where it feels safe to love life and the things and people around her out loud.

For me and Miss F., loud is all we know. There’s no such
thing as being quiet. We’ll shout out the window instead of inside the room if
you’re sleeping, or into a pillow if we must, but be warned, we don’t


If you’re gonna hang with us, you’d better expect some


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Bring on the Noise — 27 Comments

  1. There are some situations where we just need to let our kids follow what they love, even if it means a little disruption. This sounds to me like a very good decision from a mom who knows her daughter. We don’t always want to say yes, but sometimes it just doesn’t make sense not to. Go Miss F!

  2. I think its a good thing to make some noise in this life. I think it is wonderful that she is choosing this journey – and that you are beside her as she does. It sounds like a great opportunity that will be full of great and wonderful experiences.

  3. Oh, Ilene…I get this. I totally get this. Belle is doing one more year of cheer with a few competitions and cheering for games. Several of the girls went the competitive route and Belle really wanted to, also. She didn’t because she doesn’t want to give up dance and we can’t afford both. When the time comes for her to make that decision, I will support her 100%. Like you both, Belle and I are not quiet. We love with our whole beings and shout it from the rooftops. We throw ourselves into what we love full force and there just isn’t enough of her to throw with dance and cheer so that would mean endless frustration and tears. Miss F is adorable and looks like she was made to cheer. I can’t wait to hear all about her season. Isn’t it funny that they fall in love with things that we wouldn’t necessarily have chosen for them? They really are their own little people.

  4. Oh, boy. You left me crying at my computer on this one.
    So often you see parents trying to fit their children into some mold of what they feel is important or “right”. That can sometimes be…okay in the end, but it can lead to so many problems in the child’s life and in the relationship they have with their parent.
    Sometimes, if you are very lucky, you get to observe parenting at its finest. When a parent accepts their child as they come to the table and then allows that child to fly their own course to be the person that they are, it’s a beautiful thing. That’s when children really thrive in every way.
    You rock. –Lisa

  5. I so am there with you. I’ve never been a girlygirl, but I am committed to ballet because my kids love it. I. Don’t. Understand. We think it’s lovely, but neither Scott nor I can really stay engaged with the shows of technical prowess that can be long, lugubrious, and really really twisty. Sam and Caroline are both awed by them.

  6. I love that you get Belle the way I get Miss F. and I totally appreciate your having to make “that decision” when the time comes between dance or cheer. In the fall, my girl does nothing but cheer for that reason. It’s too intense and her life around it is too intense. But it’s what she loves and like you said, they really are their own little people.
    OK, so it is now more than obvious to me why we hit it off so well from the get go – because, I, like you and Belle love with all of my being and shout it from the rooftops. It’s overbearing to some, but I really don’t know how to be any other way – do you?

  7. Thank you, Lisa. This girl of mine has really been my greatest challenge but also my greatest teacher. I think I could have easily become that parent who could have forced my kids down the road that I thought was “right” in my eyes – and by grace and coincidence and having a few good mentors, I’ve been able to get past myself – at least a little bit.
    And I am surprisingly psyched for cheer season – something a year ago, I NEVER would have saw coming. xo

  8. OK, this reply of yours makes me think you are actually more awesome than I even did before, since I have not, in any of your posts about the ballet, ever gotten that sense that you didn’t understand – but that you were just fully committed to it. And now I see that it is for the sake of Sam and Caroline and not because it has anything to do with what you wanted for them – at least not initially, but maybe now because of what it gives to them. That’s wonderful.

  9. In some ways, it’s like a dance, isn’t it? With mantra. And even a sangha. Of her own choosing. I love the pure energy in these pictures, and the choice seems obvious to me, too. Good for you for letting her go, for cheering her on, and for being there with the net and your gentle embrace when she falls, to help her get back up again.

  10. A heart like yours and hers is a beautiful thing. My heart hurts with how much I admire your spirit and your mothering. You are truly a miracle. I love this line: “I need to know how to steer gently around its curves and corners and teach her to do the same.” Amen. And I’ll take you and your brilliant, boisterous noise any day.

  11. It’s such a hard line to walk – and you KNOW how much I was against cheer. That Leonard Cohen quote about there being a crack in everything – and that’s how the light gets in? That’s kind of how I feel about what happened this year with my realizations about what cheer brings to my girl. That tiny little crack penetrated my own vision and agenda just enough that I was willing to keep going – and now I can’t wait for the season! Who knew?

  12. Thanks, Justine. These are photos from her first competition back in October, and it’s so obvious she loves what she is doing. Every child deserves that one love to throw themselves into, right? I am grateful that we can find a way to make this work and that I hung in there long enough to see the upside. I love your comparison to a dance. Spot on.

  13. You are just beautiful in every way. Yes, if our souls have shape, my girl’s would be like a snowflake. A lot of intricate corners. Hopefully, I can teach her to love the shape of her soul instead of coveting the shape of someones else’s.
    The two of us are so damned noisy, We don’t know how to do anything half-assed or quiet. You are welcome to come hang out with us – I’d tell you to bring ear plugs, but I bet you’re pretty noisy too. xo

  14. Awesome. My mom is an artist as am I..sorta..and my two sisters were competitive dancers and cheerleaders. I know for a fact it was tough for my mom to navigate that world but she did it with such gusto, waking up at 5:00 am to french braid their hair with ribbons. And she’d also wake up at 5:00 am for my horse shows and my brothers’ sports games. Knowing your own kids and learning to help them make choices for just wow.

  15. I’d so much rather one of my girls say “That wasn’t as great as I thought it would be!” than to say “I guess we’ll never know if I could have made it.”
    They’re on paths, our kids. We just sort of pave the roads and help navigate when they need us.
    Awesome post.

  16. That’s awesome that your mom was so supportive of your passions and those of your siblings and let you blaze that path. It’s wonderful to have parents who have you back like that and I hope to do the same for my kids.
    And I would not call you an artist “sorta.” I’d call you an artist, for sure.

  17. They are on their own paths, aren’t they? Even at such young ages.
    And I agree that it’s our job to pave the roads, navigate when needed, and be there on the sidelines, as you were for Grace when she was up against the boysaurus soccer players. That kind of moral support goes a long way, even when the game doesn’t go as expected.

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