Cheer on! It’s darned hard work


Quick – what do actress Kim Basinger, funnyman Steve Martin, singer Sheryl Crow, Ashley Judd, Meryl Streep, Samuel L. Jackson and the late U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower have in common?

Why, of course, they were all cheerleaders at one time in their lives!

I mention this as I come to the realization that if I want my child to have any hope of success later in life it is imperative that she know her way around a pompom.

New age girl. Our daughter is a child of the new millennium.

We have embraced the raising of a strong, intelligent future woman with all the fervor of any post-modern parents.

We pride ourselves on being equal opportunity extracurricular providers. We have signed her up for tee-ball and soccer. She’s hit the mat in martial arts.

In short, she’s been taught since day one that anything her brother can do, she can do as well.

As a result, our daughter, like many of her peers, knows that she can hold her own in sports, even as she might enjoy wearing a princess costume from time to time.

In fact, it is likely that her definition of being a “girly-girl” would be to beat the pants off a boy while wearing a princess costume.

Weaker sex? Forget about it. My daughter may just run the world.

Nonetheless, despite all this rah-rah equality of her formative years, it is becoming clear that the truth cannot be denied: our daughter was born to cheer. Therein lies the rub.

Past times. In my day, cheerleading wasn’t called a sport. Cheerleading – in the dark days of the 1980s – was, at best, a performance. A performance based primarily on being pretty.

Sure it was a fine activity: mesmerizing flexibility, glossy smiles, waterproof mascara – what’s not to like?

Yet, In those “olden days,” cheerleading was essentially about one thing and one thing only: popularity. It didn’t matter if you could single-handedly support the entire squad upon your own broad back – if you weren’t in the “in crowd” then, sorry sister, you were out.

On the ground. Further excluding cheerleading from even remotely resembling a sport, our school didn’t even allow pyramids and high jumps (or anything remotely resembling gymnastic activity).

Instead, we stood at the forefront as trendsetters in the “someone will get hurt and sue us” category.

Our high school cheerleaders kept their feet firmly planted on the ground even as their towering, heavily feathered hairstyles reached new heights.

Lured in. Thus, I had not necessarily imagined myself embracing the lure of the pompom and call of the group chant. I had pictured myself more the mother of a female Nobel prize winner.

It is only natural, then, that I would give birth to a born cheerleader.

This explains how a recent invitation for my daughter to attend “cheerleading camp” found me crowded into a sweltering gymnasium amidst a gaggle of giggling, hopping, bouncing, and high-kicking little girls ages 4-12.

Shake it. For three days these tough, strong, and blessedly high-esteem laden little darlings kicked, jumped, and giggled (a lot!).

They shouted, they chanted, and – I hesitate to admit – they shook their “booty.” At least I think it was booty. It’s so hard to tell at that age.

For three days I struggled with my inner conflict: was I setting the right example for my impressionable girl? Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ashley Judd aside, should I be pushing her toward science camp instead?

Epiphany. Instead, somewhere in the near heatstroke of that humid gym, I experienced a cheering epiphany. Cheerleading is darned hard work.

More importantly, today’s cheerleaders are young ladies who balance training and teamwork, and frankly, could seriously kick most of our behinds. I like to think that will come in handy for a modern girl.

They also worked hard to conjure the magic in making a sweltering gymnasium, raggedy pompoms, and a bevy of chants, cheers, and a little “booty shaking” into the dream of my daughter – who has now regaled us with the exact same cheer (and no signs of stopping) for three days straight.

The smile (not to mention her high kick) make it all worthwhile. Go team! And thus a cheerleader’s mom is born. Maybe.

Balanced. My self-worth still does not rise and fall on whether my daughter gets to man the megaphone. I’m far more balanced that all that.

Besides, our daughter is 5 years old. I have years of behind the scenes machinations and putting out “hits” on rival cheerleaders (like that leggy 6-year-old over there who might be trouble someday …) to get us, er, HER, to the top of the pyramid.

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt believes in whatever her daughter dares to dream. She welcomes comments c/o or P.O. Box 38, Salem, Ohio 44460.)


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