For the past two years, my daughter Callie has been an All-Star competitive cheerleader. To pretend that it is not all glitz and glamour would be a lie. It is all glitz and all glamour. There are always cameras flashing whether she is sweating at practice or she is glammed up for competition. She has fans continually yelling at her! I don’t know how many times she hears “Stop tumbling in the house!” She has a personal chauffer, chef, and even a stylist for competitions.
I would say she chose this cheer life, but I graciously inherited the title of ‘cheer mom.’
First, I am not your typical cheer mom! When my daughter says, that she is working on her standing back tuck, I must ‘You Tube’ that term so that I know what skill she is referring to. I ‘Google’ how to curl hair and apply eye shadow in fifty shades of glitter. I ‘Instagram’ world famous cheer teams, stalking their pages like obsessed teen fans. I ‘Pinterest’ cute sayings to write on bags of snacks to give to her teammates. I use ‘Google Maps’ for hotels and competition venues. Then I must ‘Facebook’ hundreds of pictures before, during and after each competition. Without the internet, I would totally be failing at this parenting gig, especially that of a newbie cheer mom.
The season of competitive cheer is year-round and runs from May through April. Most of the competitions take place December through March in the Dallas area. My daughter is on a level two junior team; we have traveled as far as San Antonio. Some older teams at our gym have traveled to Florida and Las Vegas to compete.
All Star Cheer includes two days a week of two-hour team practices for stunting, body conditioning and choreography. In addition, athletes must take a weekly jump and tumbling class and practice with their individual stunt group. There are weekend tumble clinics, private lessons, extra tumble classes and open gym nights.
This means I am usually running the roads, dinner is probably in the crock pot and if I want to see my spouse, he must tag along to practice. Sometimes it means, ‘I am sorry it is past your bedtime, but you still need to shower and do your homework’ or ‘I am sorry you can’t make that party, because we have a competition this weekend.’
It isn’t unusual for the team to practice an additional day the week or two before a big competition. There is always excitement for the competition, but fatigue and stress start to set in. If stunts fall during practice, routines can change just days before competition. It is hard for an 11-year-old to see change as progress, when routines have been practiced for months. This is when mommin’ isn’t easy.
If you have seen ‘Bridezillas’ on television, you have seen a cheerleader on the day of competition. The sweet child who behaves perfectly turns into a flippin’ diva! Cheer hair and makeup rank with wedding hair and makeup. This year, the team’s hair is required to be curled in a high ponytail, a curse put on mothers by some higher authority. The ponytail must be within three inches of the forehead and my daughter knows what three inches looks like without a ruler. It is a process – pull up the hair, brush, hairspray, pull, brush, hairspray…it is commitment that must be taken seriously. Do not leave a hair behind. Ever. Perfect hair means the bow can be placed perfectly upon the crown.
After failed attempts with hot rollers, curling irons, and foam rollers, I bought curl formers to curl my daughter’s hair. The first time I did this, it took my husband and I over an hour to get it curled. It is a family circus, I mean sport. With the hair in a ponytail, the hair is separated into a small strand and spritzed, then pulled through the curl former individually. Do this fifty times. No, really, 50! Then blow dry the hair and wait an hour to remove the curlers.
Makeup is just as intense. We use press on eye shadow so the team’s makeup matches. If done wrong, you can go from cheerleader to serial clown killer in 3 2 1. Your daughter will not forgive you. There are days that I hand my daughter the mascara and lipstick, because I can feel my abilities may not be up to par to an eleven-year-old at 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Especially on Sunday, I try to stay right with Jesus.
The uniforms are very fitted, so when the end of the season nears, what once fit well shall no more. It is like the first time that you attempt to wear your pre-pregnancy jeans as a new mom like a week after delivery. Ain’t gonna happen. You need the assistance of two grown adults and ear plugs for each.
So now I have spent two hours getting this child ready. Do not be that mom that forgets white ankle socks. Do not rely on the child either or you will be that mom that forgets white ankle socks. A bag check is mandatory. Required. Necessary. On more than one occasion, I have literally saved the day, by checking the bag for shoes before we left the house.
Coaches pick up the cheerleaders two hours prior to performance to stretch, warmup and practice their routine one more time. The wait begins. The convention center is dark, flooded with flashing lights, loud music and thousands of cheering fans, I mean parents, just like me.
The entire performance is two and a half minutes of intense clapping, chanting and yelling for your child’s team. The routine that you haven’t seen for weeks unfolds beautifully before your eyes. But then a stunt group drops, followed by your heart. You know your child is going to be devastated that the weeks of hard work will not mean a trophy or bid to Nationals. You win some and you lose some. There are seasons that you are on top of the world and seasons that you can’t wait to end. These are where life lessons are learned.
Y’all, I am not a regular mom; I am a cheer mom! I have been the soccer mom, the baseball mom, the rodeo mom… I even dabbled as a football mom and a ballet mom.
With all these hats that I have worn as a mother, my duties remained the same. I have washed uniforms, supplied snacks, scheduled hotels and private lessons, bought equipment and gear, and written lots of checks. I have waited hundreds of hours for practices to end and driven hundreds of miles to see my kids participate. I have watched my kids practice the same skill over and over, day after day, until it was perfect. I have worried if they would make the team, dried tears after losses and injuries, and given Oscar worthy motivational speeches. I have beamed with pride, cried tears of joy and cheered like ‘that mom.’ Yes, the crazy one.
Kids play sports for the fun and love of the game, the challenge and excitement of learning a new skill, and the relationships that develop from being on a team. It isn’t for the trophy, nor wins, nor the small chance that they might get a college scholarship, as much as we let that get in the way! All this is done for the pursuit of something they love.
As parents, we are not very different. We do it for the pursuit of something we love.