Pre-kid people like to preach on all those things they'll never do as parents...you know, use pacifiers, allow thumb-sucking, let the kids sleep in their bed...the list goes on and on... That list is shortened when a person becomes a parent - edited to remove all the things YOU'VE done as a parent, because those are now totally acceptable. It's all those other 'pitfalls' you've managed to avoid that a parent should never do.
I've learned that doesn't end as kids get older, although they change...I think...into more of 'everyone knows you should _____' types of things. Like, everyone knows to raise good readers you should read to your kids early and often...and everyone knows to raise good eaters you should set a good example by eating the healthy foods you want them to eat. Still, some kids struggle finding that sweet spot of getting sucked into a good book and some (most, lol?) kids have a bland, boring selection of foods they always want to eat...chicken strips, anyone?
Last night we allowed one of those things you're never supposed to let your kids do - we let E2 quit cheer leading.
Her request to try cheer leading was met by us with outward agreement - we've let her try her hand at many other sports, so why not cheer leading? Inwardly though, we had a small wave of 'really? cheer leading?'. I wondered if she'd have to wear a giant bow Pebbles-style.
Photo from CheerMakeupBlog.com
Things kicked off this summer, when she skipped the girls' basketball open gym and went to a meeting for those interested in cheer leading. She came home exuding excitement over what was to come...they had looked in cheer catalogs and talked about what shoes they'd get, what unitards they'd get, and what bows they'd get. There were thrilling things to come, like pre-game pizza parties where they'd hang out and fix their hair. I listened, nodded and smiled, said encouraging things like, "That sounds like fun." All while thinking "That sounds expensive." and wondering where the actual cheering part of cheer leading fit in to the plan.
At the school meeting for athletes, they received the school athletic handbook and a folder chock full of cheer leading information. Past athletic endeavors of volleyball and basketball have resulted in a handbook and sport schedule, so the folder was new...and a little overwhelming. In addition to the sports handbook, there was information on concussions (now required for all sports in Illinois schools), the cheer coaches rules for the cheerleaders (behavior, grades, dedication, etc.), the section from the handbook regarding athletes grades enlarged, calendar pages for September through December that showed all cheer practices and games, several pages of cheers, and the upcoming basketball schedule.
E2 has been faithfully learning the cheers and attending 3-hour practices four nights a week. A couple of weeks ago, she came home on a Thursday night and weepily told me the coach wanted to pull some of the 6th grade girls up to Varsity and have them cheer at both Junior Varsity and Varsity games. E2, who had already opted out of two clubs she had participated in back when she played basketball, was freaked out that it was going to be too much involvement if she wanted to keep her grades up. I suggested she wait to see if she was even one of those asked to cheer for Varsity as well, and if that happened we would talk to the coach about E2's concerns and decline.
She was asked to cheer for varsity, she handled herself like a pro and declined, and even explained why when the coach pulled her aside to ask why. E2 was delighted that she'd only be cheering for JV and would have some nights off when practices would be for varsity only.
The next day the coach combined the 13 girls into one squad, even though only 6 or 8 can be on the sideline cheering at a time, so there would be more girls to work with for floor cheers.
I emailed the coach to ask for clarification, because E2 seemed to think that if she didn't cheer for varsity she couldn't cheer at all, and expressed concern over E2's feelings of being overwhelmed about time for schoolwork. The coach replied and said this is the first year they've cheered at JV games, so they were still figuring out what would work best but she thought she would go back to two squads and have some of the 6th grade girls cheer for Varsity as well. E2 would be able to opt out of the Varsity, but she would be expected to stay for the Varsity game, and they would have the same practices so it would really be the same amount of time.
Now, in the past when E1 and E2 have played school volleyball and basketball they have indeed been told to stay for the older kids' games when possible in order to watch and learn. However, we've always been able to take them home as we (the parents) wished. I suspected coach wasn't aware of this, but felt pretty strongly that she would learn it from me if such a situation arises. No way am I letting my kid sit and watch a game until 8:30 when she's got a pile of homework waiting at home. The very homework that will be keeping her grades up so she can even participate in school sports! I let it go and figured I'd address that if/when a situation presented itself...who knows, maybe it wouldn't be an issue once the season began.
It was during this email session that I realized that cheer had become more of a time commitment than past years when she'd played basketball while participating in two after school clubs. It also occurred to me that she was putting in more practice hours than E1 was for her High School golf team. There was a lot of practicing - E3 missed her sister.
So, they were back to two squads and E2 was solidly on JV only and happy...although still logging 12 hours/week of practice. Until this week.
Now that E1's golf and E2's soccer seasons are finished, we were hopeful the girls could get back to their weekly dinner dates with Rob's parents. When E2 announced that she wouldn't have cheer practice on Thursday night we rescheduled Wednesday night's date for Thursday. Reports on what went down at cheer practice are sketchy and second-hand, but from what I understand an 8th grader quit - prompting coach to once again make the girls one squad that would cheer at both JV and Varsity games.
E2 was visibly upset when she walked in the door from practice...in addition to being right back where she DIDN'T want to be, it messed up date night with the grandparents. After dinner we discussed things...my eyes met Rob's over E2's crying form and I mouthed, "Do you care if she quits?" He vehemently shook his head 'no'. I asked E2 what she wanted to do...and she started talking about all the items we had to buy to get her outfitted for cheer leading...we told her not to worry about that. She said she liked cheering, but now she's back to cheering for both games and all the time that includes, that there are a bunch more cheers they have to learn for varsity by a certain date and if they don't know them they'll have to run laps, and the pep rally and first game are only like a week away...and it was just all getting to be too much...she didn't want to quit, but she didn't want to cheer for both games.
We pointed out that those seemed to be her only two choices, and advised her to consider those options while finishing homework and taking her shower. By bedtime she had made the decision to quit...and was visibly relieved.
She brought her cheer uniform back today, and I emailed the coach to inform her of E2's decision. The coach replied, saying that she was going to split them back into two squads after all...sigh...I hope E2 isn't swayed back into the fray.
Information from another cheer parent included reports of the coach crying one day last week and saying the girls need to show her respect, and an addition to the cheer calendar that would put them out of town on the night we've got Trick-or-Treating. Reportedly, coach told them if they missed the game for trick or treat they would be benched for two games and emphasized that she would be missing her bff's wedding shower even though she was a bridesmaid so they could miss Trick-Or-Treat.
So, we let her quit.
No, that's not accurate.
We let her say, "enough is enough" rather than finish out this commitment. Had we known what was all involved and warned her ahead of time, and she'd still chosen this...we probably would have made her stick it out. But none of us knew what an investment of time, energy, and emotion would be required.