Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bon Jovi Sums it Up


When I started this blog, I knew that it would be a place where I could talk about race, interracial marriage, mixed and blended families and all of the issues that those subjects involved. But it was also going to be a place to share the myriad of other issues—issues that don't have anything to do with color—that all families deal with. These are the everyday joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams, plans and promises that Kevin and I made to each other and to our girls.

Last night brought disappointment: Sisi didn't make the cheering squad. And because we're a family, her disappointment was one we all shared, all of us—Kevin, Lil Bit, Si and me.

Sisi told me after tryouts that she wasn't sure she made it, but she hoped she would. She said she messed up the dance pretty seriously and that a few of her jumps hadn't turned out very well. She almost fell after her roundoff. But Si tends toward magnification of her failings. I knew the dance would be her weakness—the beat was fast and the choreography surprisingly difficult. In the end, I suspect that it alone was the problem: Sisi often needs a couple of weeks to learn new steps. Three days wasn't long enough.

Of course, when she learned she was cut, she cried.            


"We're really proud of you for trying something new," I told her. "Just trying it was a victory. None of your friends even had the nerve to try!"

"And you've got real potential with this," Kevin reminded her. "It's just that you've never done anything like this. Some of these girls have been doing cheerleading clinics and camps since they were Lil Bit's age." He's right: Lil Bit is not quite five and it seems like every week we get a card in the mail about dance or cheering camp for girls her age. "If you're really serious about this, this Fall we'll see if we can afford something like that for you."

"And then you can tryout again next year—if you want to." I have to hold back a bit because I have real "stage mom" tendencies. I know that, in a heartbeat, I can push harder and faster than either of my girls is ready to go. Si may be a teenager, but she still wants to please me. I want her to do well, but not for that reason. I want her to do well because SHE wants to, not because of me.

"It's all right, Sisi," Lil Bit joins in the group hug. "Don't cry."

But of course, she does anyway, for a little while.

"I'm a loser. I'm not good at anything."

We go down the list—a list Si knows well but really needs to hear one more time. We remind her of her hip hop dance recital tomorrow, of the fact that she successfully auditioned into one of the high school's select choirs, that she's queen of several video games, a good swimmer and manages to be friends with everyone. That she had the nerve to tryout for a sport like cheering completely cold and without a support system of friends. She has "heart."

"Now, we're going to dinner," Kevin announces. "And after dinner, ice cream."

"I don't wanna go," Si says tearfully. "Can't I stay here?"

"Nope," I say, dragging her to the car. "Moping around the house alone is not an option."

We go to dinner. We talk a bit more about cheering, about high school, about the recital tomorrow, about inviting one of her friends to join us at the community pool for a few hours after that. We eat ice cream while sitting on a bench in a nearby plaza. On summer Saturday nights middle aged guys play hits from "back in the day" while little kids play and dance with their mothers. We get stared at a bit—pale, Irish Kevin holding hands with short brown me. Si our brown-skinned teen beauty and lively Lil Bit who many might see as a white girl with olive skin. Both of them are licking their ice creams, both of them are calling us "Mom" and "Dad". I only really notice the stares when they last a little too long.

Kevin doesn't seem to notice at all. He rubs my shoulder and smiles. I know that look; I know what he's thinking. He's thinking that it's a perfect evening, sitting here, eating ice cream and listening to music with his girls. He's thinking he's lucky—we all are—because we have each other.

We ARE lucky and I know it for sure when Sisi says out of nowhere, "You know, the Coach said a lot of the varsity girls had taken those cheering clinics. Maybe if I took one and kept working on my dancing, I could go straight to the varsity cheering squad next year. What do you think, Mom?"

Kevin gives my shoulder another squeeze, signaling his support. I know our budget has gotten tighter over the last several years, but I'm sure with a little research I can find a decent program that won't break the bank. "Absolutely, I say. We'll look into it for the Fall."

She seems content—so I'm content. The band—men about our age who got day jobs and had kids, but never gave up their guitars--- burst into Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer." The lyrics fit the moment: "We gotta hold on, to what we've got. It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not. We've got each other and that's a lot, for love… we'll give it our shot."

Si gave it her shot. It wasn't her year, but she's got all of us to fall back on. And regardless of our skin tones, that's a lot—and we all know it.

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