Take a moment and let that sink in. Especially if you’ve been a longtime (or longish time) reader. Because you know that I’m not about pep and team spirit or even wearing skirts. Glitter I can handle. The rest, though? Not so much.
But approximately 2 years ago, when we were offering her choices for activities, she said no to all of them. Every. Last. One. And then, out of the blue, she says she wants to cheer. Naturally I was confused as fuck because really? Cheerleading? How on earth did that come up and more specifically, where did she get the idea? Certainly not from me. Or her father. I wanted to say no because what. The. Hell. How can I, of all people, raise a cheerleader. But I love my kid more than I love my stereotypes so I tried to be open minded and signed her up for the introductory classes at the Y and she loved it and showed an aptitude and now, here we are, parents of a competitive cheerleader.
It’s truly not something I ever thought I’d be. And throughout her first year, I didn’t warm up to it quickly. At all. There were some external reasons I won’t get into but some of it did come from me. But the more we got into it, the more I gave in. And now? You guessed it. I’m a cheer mom.
And I am learning things I never thought I’d learn. Like cheerleading vernacular. Yup. It’s its own thing. Herky and high V and liberty and basket toss and teddy bear and pike jump and all the other words that are now tossed around like a flyer at my house (see what I did there? Flyer? Cheer humor at its finest). While I’m still learning some of the vocabulary, I’m now mostly fluent in cheer. We can put that in the “never thought that’d happen” bucket.
You know what else I know now? How to do cheer hair, which, incidentally, is its own thing (I also know where to buy cheer hair. So if you ever need it, just ask). I was unaware of this and, now that I am, I have a clear understanding of how the hairspray industry stays afloat. Competitive cheerleaders. My daughter used more hairspray during her first season of competition cheer than I have in 37 years of life. And I lived through the 80s and early 90s. That’s a lot of hairspray, folks.
As if that’s not enough, I now find myself encouraging her cheering. I look for cheer quotes and crafts on Pinterest. I buy her clothes with cheer stuff on them. I’ve talked to the other moms about buying specifically designed cheer mom t-shirts (and if we can’t get those, I plan to buy the sparkliest shirt I can find). I have opinions on the routines and I make her practice at home. I even find myself volunteering (okay, fine, I’m going to my first volunteer meeting tonight). When my daughter got kicked in the face by her flyer the other night at practice, I told her I was proud that she got her first injury (I have never admitted that I will win mother of the year). But the bottom line is that I’ve become immersed in cheer because I’d be a shitty parent if I didn’t. I love my kid and I support her, even if, deep down in place I don’t talk about at parties, I still don’t get it.
But despite the fact that I don’t get it, I need to say this: I now realize that cheerleaders truly are athletes who deserve respect rather than mockery. They train and condition their bodies and do shit that really shouldn’t be humanly possible. Even at a young age, they’re lifting their flyers, doing basket tosses, tumbling, jumping, spraining, bruising, and hurting themselves all for the sake of being the best. Cheerleading isn’t just bows, sparkly makeup, and silly chants at football games (and it’s certainly not the crap you see at NFL and NBA games. That shit is simply ridiculous). It’s physically demanding, hours of practice and, at times, emotionally draining, and what impresses me the most is that when those girls get hurt, they keep going. They are badasses to a degree that only gets associated with sports like hockey and football.
I will be the first to say the bitchiness is real. I’ve seen it but typically more from the parents than the cheerleaders (parents are bad sports. Some of the worst I’ve ever seen), which is nice. And there are definitely some stage moms (including me at times. Yeah, I admit it. But if I’m spending all this money, she better work hard). And it does get frustrating when people mock you for having a cheerleader. But to see the look on my daughter’s face, and the happiness she gets at practice, football games, and competitions makes the early morning hours, the seemingly endless competitions filled with painfully loud, nearly identical cheer mixes, the loss of any social life for 6 months, and the constantly having to fend off negative comments and stereotypes about cheerleaders worth it.
So there you have it. I confess that I’m a cheer mom. My 16 year old self would be shocked. But my 37 year old self is proud.
Linking up with Kathy for the first time in a few weeks.