“I think I know what you’re going to decide,” I say, after
I’ve explained her options.
“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…
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.
The most loving thing I can do for my child is allow her to
throw 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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