As I walked into Sun National Arena in Trenton, New Jersey for my daughter’s cheer competition, I was keenly aware that one of us would leave that night crying.
Either they’d lose, and she would be devastated, or they’d win, and I’d be devastated.
Don’t get me wrong, I want what we all want for our children. But if you’ve read parts one and two of my Cheer Mom trilogy, then you understand the struggles I’ve encountered with my cheerleader daughter. Advancing is what the girls want and what their coaches want and what I’m supposed to want. Yet, the next round would mean another month of daily practices, and another month of arguments over cheer and homework, cheer and play dates, cheer and life. Not to mention that another round of competition meant more costs on top of costs that I could barely afford to begin with.
If they placed in the regional round, their squad would go to Florida for nationals. How was I going to pay for that?
As we race to the cheer clubhouse that morning so that Miss F. could make her bus, I lecture her on behavior.
“Listen to your coaches.”
“I put money in your duffle bag for lunch. It’s for lunch and not for candy. I don’t what to hear that you spent that money on Snickers bars.”
“Got it, Mom,” she says with an eye roll.
Miss F. was slow to get out of bed. The hair piece, otherwise known as a “wiglet,” that was sewn into her hair the night before, had prevented her from sleeping comfortably. As I pull into the clubhouse parking lot, I notice the dark circles under her eyes.
She was a tired, nervous little girl, going through a huge change at home, who had a mother who was too hard on her.
I kissed her as she boarded the bus.
“If you want Snickers with lunch, it’s OK,” I say. “I love you.”
* * *
As I watched her perform, my heart clenched. Not only did she do a great job, but she was having fun. Despite the pressure and the lack of sleep and the uncomfortable fake hair, she was enjoying this moment that they worked so hard for.
It became apparent to me in that moment that cheer brought my girl joy, the joy of camaraderie with a team, the joy of a job well done, the joy of taking risks. I realized as I watched her that I would do whatever was necessary to pay for Florida, and I would do whatever I had to do to allow Miss F. to continue to cheer in the years to come. As far as the money went, I would get another part time job to fund this. If I could not find more freelance editing, I would clean someone’s house once a week or wait tables. I made the commitment to stand behind her.
It came as no surprise that her squad took second place, and that they would advance to the next round. The only surprise for me, was how genuinely happy I felt.
Later that night, after meeting the bus at the clubhouse, Miss F. and I sat at the kitchen table eating soup, while I listened to her recount of the day.
“Listen,” I say, “I know you love cheer. I saw how much you love cheer when you were out there today. I just want you to know, that if this is what you want to do every year, then I want it for you too.”
There was silence for a moment before Miss F. spoke.
“You know, Mommy, I’m going to have to think about that. I love cheer, but there’s a lot of other things I have to give up in order to cheer, and I need to figure out if it’s worth it. You know what I mean?”
“Yes, baby, I know what you mean.”
“It’s a big commitment,” Miss F. continues. “Not just for me, but for the entire family.”
I nod and can’t help but smile a teeny tiny bit.
We sat there eating soup, with the clock closing in on midnight, talking about wiglets, her bus ride, and the notes from the judges on their routine, as my heart clenched a second time that day, the way it does when you feel completely in synch with the people you love the most.
I am very pleased to end this story, where I began it, on Shell's blog.
This final installment is a post that I am sharing via her Pour Your Heart Out Link up.