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As soon as I spotted my mom’s car, I rushed toward it, wanting to get off school grounds as quickly as possible. The first cheerleading practice of the season was over, and I was fighting back tears.
I sat in the front seat, avoiding my mom’s stare.
“How did practice go?” she asked, suspiciously. Tears welled up in my eyes. I choked trying to find the right words.
“I don’t think I was cut out to be a cheerleader,” my voice cracked. I tried to swallow the lump in my throat and knew that it wouldn’t take much for me to lose it.
“What? What happened?” her words cut at me and I began to sob while we pulled out onto the street. I tried to regain control of myself and vigorously wiped the tears now raining down my cheeks.
Where to start? I wondered. There was so much to explain and I was so discouraged.
“We learned so much today and I can’t remember all of it. She gave me a sheet with all the words on it but I can’t remember all the motions that go with them. We have a test on Monday and we’re learning twice as much tomorrow. I’m never going to learn it all and if we don’t know it all by Monday, we have to sit out at the game. I’ll never learn it all,” the words rushed out of my mouth. I wanted to quit.
I could see the confusion on my mom’s face; the look she gave me said she thought I was crazy. I never tried so hard in my life, and I had still managed to fail.
“What did you learn and who gave you a sheet of what?”
“We learned sidelines for the games and Coach Jenn gave us the sheet. It has all the words to them and I know the words but I don’t know the motions. We went through them so fast and just when I thought I had the first couple motions down, we moved to the next one,” I answered, frustrated. No one in my family understood cheerleading. Well, not like I wanted them to, at least. It’s way more than “Yeah! Go team!” as everyone thought.
I don’t even remember the rest of the ride home
because I was so mortified at the thought of everyone showing up for the game on Wednesday and seeing me, in full uniform, not cheering with the team because I didn’t know how to cheer. The only other thing I remember about that night was sitting with my parents in the family room and them telling me that I needed to talk to my coach. They told me to get together with someone on the team who did know the chants to get help, but that really sent me through the roof.
“Get together with someone on the team? You expect me to just go up to one of those eighth-graders and say ‘Hey, would you mind coming over this weekend to help me cheer?’ Mom, I don’t know any of them!”
“What about the other two seventh-graders?”
“They know just as much as I do!”
In the end, though, my parents somehow not only coaxed me into talking with my coach but also to ask one of the eighth-graders (along with the two seventh-graders) to get together over the weekend and practice. I lay in bed that night dreading the next day. I didn’t think my parents had helped me at all, and wasn’t that what they were there for?
The next day before school I practiced what I would say to Coach and picked out the eighth-grader I would ask for help. But by the time sixth hour came, I was freaking out. I started to imagine everything that could go wrong: What if Meredith said no or was busy this weekend? What if she said she’d call me but never did? What if Coach Jenn got mad that I didn’t know all the chants? What if ...
The next thing I knew, I was walking up to Meredith and asking if she were busy that weekend. To my utter amazement, it ended up that I would go over to Melanie’s house with Bianca and Meredith and we could all practice together. Now all I had to do was talk to Coach Jenn. She acted very cool about it, saying, “Caroline, you’re exactly where you need to be right now. Just practice hard this weekend.”
Still, I walked out of practice that day with the same fear. I got anxious and started to cry again. My parents sat me down once more to tell me that everything would be okay. I just shut my ears and didn’t listen. I was so worried and they acted like everything was peachy. “Just try your best,” they said. Yeah, well, what if my best wasn’t up to my coach’s standards? And off I went into another stage of what ifs. I truly believed my parents didn’t understand, but the fact was I was the one who didn’t understand.
Later that night my mom came into my room and gave me a big hug. I was grateful for this little homework break, so I decided to listen to her this time.
“I know why this is such a struggle for you,” she started. “It’s because everything comes easy for you. You’ve never had trouble with anything before. This is a really good learning experience for you and in the end, I know you’ll be grateful you stuck with it. I’ll be grateful you stuck with it. As much as I hate to see you struggle, I know that it really will be an awesome experience. I know you can do it. Believe in yourself.” And with that, she left.
Now the first cheerleading season is over and I’m starting the next. It’s clear that in the end, everything did turn out okay. I’ve made new friends, learned tons of new skills and most importantly, learned how to persevere. I never could have done it, though, without the help of my parents. Through the long season, they stuck by me giving me advice and encouraging me all the way. It wasn’t easy and I often wanted to give up, but my parents would not let me and no matter how mad or upset I got, it was their words and will for the best for me that got me through this difficult time.
I hope that someday I will be as much of an encouragement to my daughter as my parents are to me.