Being Their Biggest Cheerleader
article by Cindy G. Foust
Happy Independence Day loyal readers as I hope this month’s article finds you and your family healthy and safe. Let’s time warp a for moment and think about where we all were this month three years ago. Can you say sci-fi movie? There we all were, hunkered down together, trying to decide how safe it was to even go to the grocery store, for fear we might get COVID from an eggplant. I’m not making light of the situation, friends, it was a deep dark time in our country and I’m so grateful, and blessed, for my family to have survived through a global pandemic.
When I think back on those times, a lot of emotions still rush through me, and I hope I never again take for granted the privileges I have as an American…as a human being. In one fell swoop, an entire nation was on our knees and we were completely hostage to our homes.
A few weeks ago I was sitting in the stands at LSU waiting for my daughter to perform at cheer camp. I found myself lost in my thoughts as the stands began to fill with other families and friends and we began to pack in there like a can of sardines. I couldn’t help but reminisce that just 3 years ago we weren’t even allowed to leave our homes and here we are today nearly sitting in each other’s laps.
As more and more people came in, there were less and less seats and as luck would have it (for the premise of this month’s column), a mother came and sat beside me on the stairs, as I had an outside seat. She had a camera that looked like one the paparazzi uses and she began flashing pictures right away so I knew her daughter must be in the middle school group. Within a few minutes the program began and I knew instinctively which child was hers, as she would turn and look up at her mother constantly. Snap, snap, snap…away she went with the pictures. Let me just say, I think I took one of my daughter with my phone camera when she did some high kick and not only is it fuzzy, but I cut her head off the picture. Eek. But this isn’t about me.
At any rate, “cheer mom” as we will refer to her, was very much into her daughter’s performance and would make comments to other moms (clearly in her child’s group) about the way they were performing. Reminder, it’s a middle school cheer performance. It became clear to me within that short period of time while she sat on those steps, that she had exceedingly high expectations for her child. To the point that I became uncomfortable with the way she yelled at her and critiqued her performance as well as that of her teammates. Each time they would get ready to perform, and then right after, the child would look up in the stands at her mother and she would be giving her sign language and make very loud comments about what she could do better. You know? Like the mom is Jay Johnson of the LSU Tigers notoriety and the daughter is waiting on the signal to steal first. But I digress. Again.
Cheer mom continues with her criticisms, and mind you, I sat beside her for an hour, and the only near-compliment she gave “the team” is that their shorts looked good from the stands. Huh? Cheer mom was clearly a former cheerleader, maybe even competitively, because she knew all the fancy names for kicks and pyramids and whatever else she found to complain about. Shoot, when I was a 9th grade cheerleader at Woodlawn Junior High (also a former Miss Woodlawn Junior High), I was happy to be able to do the half-splits. I could, in those days however, take my leg and lift all the way over my head, but again, this column isn’t about me so move it on.
I will say this readers, I was never so happy for this “exhibition” to be over and this lady to go sit in her car. What I realized as I watched her daughter, is that first, her child was waiting on her mother’s reaction to each stunt or cheer that she did. She would look for her and wait. And let me tell you, no positive reinforcement ever came. At least none that I heard.
In fact, when the event was over and I gathered my own girl to leave, I noticed as we were walking out that this same mother had her daughter locked up in a heated conversation. I don’t know what was being said, but the cheerleader’s face kind of said it all. After we crawled in our car and headed home, my own child fell asleep immediately. I caught myself looking at her several times during that drive home, watching her sleep and wondering… have I done all I can to encourage and lift her up? Have I been enough in making her feel confident and self-assured, not just in cheer but in her life? Because readers, at the end of the day, does middle school cheer (or softball or baseball or football or karate or whatever it is they are interested in) really matter? What matters is how they feel about themselves, and I really feel that as parents, that poise, that self-confidence must surely come from the encouragement they get from us. Listen, I have mucked up parenting a plenty…but what I hope I’ve been intentional about is believing in my children so they will believe in themselves. Let’s take a lesson from “cheer mom” this month and reflect on what we are pouring into our children, the voice we use, the encouragement we give, and that the way they feel about themselves, is more important than the outcome of a game.
Cindy G. Foust is a wife, mom, author and blogger. You can find her blog at the alphabetmom.com for weekly columns about home life, parenting, small business stories and insight with a smidgen of literacy. Give her a like or follow on Facebook and Instagram.