I'm about to write some words I never thought I'd ever write.
Not only am I going to write these words, but I am going to mean them from the bottom of my feminist, womanist, gurl power heart. Are you ready? Here they are:
I hope my daughter makes cheerleader.
What? You were expecting something else? Trust me when I tell you, this is monumental for me. As a younger woman I would have been appalled by the very suggestion that I would encourage and support and female child of mine in such a seeming superficial activity. After all, what is a more traditional role for a young woman than standing on the sidelines cheering for the men? And in those skimpy little uniforms, no less, which do nothing but objectify women. And then there are all the stereotypes about the type of girls who BECOME cheerleaders: vain, shallow, self-absorbed, popular, clique-ish.
Of course, it's obvious from that paragraph that I was never a cheerleader! Debate club? Check. Band? First chair saxophone. Editor of the school paper? Of course. Let's make short work of it: I was a nerd. Most of my friends were nerds. We didn't really know any cheerleaders personally but we saw them from a distance and, to our eyes, it looked like they were living a very different high school reality. I won't admit to any jealousy but I suppose it's at least possible that I may have felt that from time to time. But then I had my straight As to give me solace.
My ignorance and arrogance provided the opportunity for God, the Divine Power, the Universe or whoever to teach me a lesson. The lesson comes in the form of my dear daughter, Sisi who is as unlike me as any human being I can ever imagine. Of all the spirits in the world, that hers should be linked by maternal bond to mine is ludicrous. We barely speak the same language. I'm orderly—she's a slob. I prefer books for information—she'd rather talk to people. I've struggled with weight my whole life—she's working her curves. When I was 14, I always sort of knew that high school was just a very short time in my life. For Sisi high school is EVERYTHING.
The one thing we share is moments of intense self-doubt.
Sisi is terrified of being a 9th grader this fall. She's had a great time in middle school and "reigned" as a popular 8th grader who manages to get along with kids of all different interests and backgrounds. As the school year comes within days of closing, her anxieties about high school have increased.
"I won't know anyone," she lamented. And while that's not entirely true, because of county boundaries many of her middle school friends will end up at other high schools. "I'll be a loser with no friends."
We even discussed it with our pediatrician during a recent visit. "This age is filled with anxieties like that. Friendships can change pretty quickly and some girls have a really hard time with that," she told us. "The best thing to do is get involved with something. Girls who do sports usually fare better than girls who aren't athletic."
Sisi wrinkled her nose. She's a decent gymnast and loves hip hop dance, but team sports? Not so much.
Meanwhile, things seemed to be getting worse. Her grades slipped as she fretted over the impact of the last days of middle school. She came home alternately euphoric about the fun she was having with her buddies and despondent that soon they would be scattered to high schools across the county and she would be alone.
So when she brought up the information about cheerleading tryouts at the high school all my reservations about gender roles, short skirts, and mean girl stereotypes when right out the window.
"If you want to tryout, I'll sign the permission forms," I said.
"Do you think I can do it?"
"I know you can." I got a smile for that one—but I meant it. A cute, popular girl who likes people, who likes to tumble and dance? My daughter is the definition of a cheerleader.
The only problem is she's not so sure. Enter that Intense Self Doubt, with a side order of "everyone's looking at me."
The tryout clinic began Tuesday. Every afternoon for three hours they've chanted and dance, jumped and flipped. I've rarely seen my daughter more self-disciplined, more focused, more positive. Gone is obsession with the end of middle school and the tearful conversations about having no friends. She is completely involved with learning the routines and making the squad. She's made friends with some of the girls trying out who will also be 9th graders this fall and with the rising sophomore, juniors and seniors, too. Surprisingly, although she's been busy every afternoon, her grades have actually improved.
The tryout is this morning at 11 am—and I, the former cheerleader skeptic, want her to make it with all my heart and soul. If she does, SVHS is about to get the loudest most active Booster Mom imaginable! LOL! She waved to me when I dropped her off, but her eyes were scared. I know that look—and if it gets the better of her, we may have to tryout again next year. Intense self doubt and are old friends… but that's another blog.
Life is so funny—and for me full of endless learning opportunities about my own faulty assumptions, judgments and prejudices. Tonight at 7 pm when the results are posted on the gym door something inside me will make a full circle, taking me back to high school—and in many ways, back to square one on my notions about identity, individuality, cliques and community.
Hold your breath with us, cross your fingers. Tomorrow, I'll write about either disappointment or elation… and I honestly don't know which.