Growing up, I was fascinated with stay-at-home moms. Whenever I went to a friend’s house and I learned that her mother did not work outside the home like my mother did, I was intrigued. What did she do all day? Wasn’t she bored and lonely when the children were in school? Of course, as an inquisitive, curious child I spent much time in observation. I needed to understand how these women’s lives were different from my mother’s life. I needed to see if it was better on the other side.
These moms were the polar opposite of my mom who worked as a teacher during the day and a bookkeeper for my father’s burgeoning business in the evening. My mother did not have extra time to be present at my games or activities, but because I knew she worked hard, I never felt disappointed. To be honest, it never even crossed my mind to ask my mom to chaperone something or come to one of my baseball games. She wasn’t the kind of woman who did those things, and it was completely normal to me that she was either at work or working on something at home.
Even though I do not regret my mother’s absence at my childhood events, as a parent, I have found myself drawn to wanting to take part in their lives. I enjoy going to their games; I try to chaperone one field trip each year, and I am the recording secretary for my children’s school’s PTA. I find it fulfilling in a way that I never knew possible.
Hence, it is not uncommon for me to get wrangled into helping out. Last Spring, our athletic director announced that there would not be a JV cheerleading squad because no one had volunteered to coach. Maggie was devastated. She had finally reached fourth grade, and she was finally going to get her turn to shine. You see, Maggie has been talking about becoming a cheerleader ever since Carson joined the squad in fourth grade. For three years, we have gone to games to watch Carson cheer and have fun with her friends. Envious, Maggie would say to me, “I can’t wait until I’m in fourth grade.” Three years, she waited patiently for her time, and then they announce it might be canceled! Thinking that she might not have the opportunity to fulfill her dream made my heart hurt. As middle child, she already feels that the universe has it in for her. I could not let something so simple as finding a coach thwart her dreams. Seeing that I myself was a cheerleader in eighth grade and have some knowledge of the sport, it only seemed right for me to step forward and volunteer my time.
As good as that sounds, the minute I agreed to help, I regretted it, which is common with me. Whenever I volunteer to take on a new position, I always have volunteer’s remorse. I look at all I need to do to just prepare myself to execute the job, and I think: I don’t have time for this. Why didn’t anyone else want to do this? How am I going to fit yet one more thing into my busy week? I always want to kick myself for being the huckleberry and getting roped in to helping yet again.
Be that as it may, I agreed to do this, so I attended the meeting; I attended the training. I collected the physical forms, order forms, and typed and copied the cheers. I lassoed Carson into being my Varsity helper, and I scheduled practices. I developed a stretching schedule and a cheer practice regiment. For four weeks, I have been training these girls and working them hard. Along with teaching them cheers and technique, I have talked to them about commitment, about representing the uniform, about having pride in themselves.
To encourage each girl to be on her best behavior and try her hardest, I made a game stick. I went to the craft store and bought a twelve-inch block of wood. I painted it the school’s colors– black, yellow, and white– and I wrote the word Falcons on it. I told the girls that it would be awarded at the end of every game to the young lady who represented the squad the best. It would be given to the girl who worked hard, who did not complain, and who tried her hardest. I made sure they understood that this stick is something special; we have fourteen girls on the squad and only eight games, not every girl will receive the stick because in my world, not everyone gets or deserves a trophy.
Today was our first game. I have to admit, I was nervous this morning. The girls had been acting extra squirrely at our last practice, and I was worried that they might act goofy and embarrass themselves and me. I worried someone would be late; someone would not be dressed in full uniform; someone would forget the ever-so-important halftime cheer.
And you know what? Nothing happened. Nothing went wrong. They were perfectly behaved; they worked together; they cheered the team to a 20-0 victory. I felt proud– proud of fourteen little girls between the ages of 9 and 11 who worked hard and pulled together as a team. I drove home from the game feeling like they themselves pulled off a victory and that all that volunteer remorse was for not; I was made for this position.
Moms of today, we are a different breed than our mothers. We have figured a way to balance family and work, and maybe our children won’t ever think what we do is anything special, but we know that we choose to be a part of their lives, really a part of their lives, because no feeling is more satisfying than watching your child feel that she is part of something and that she matters.