Ainsley cheered her very first basketball game Sunday. And I have to say, despite my predictions, maybe even (I am ashamed to say) despite my wishes to have Sundays free...
She's really good at it.
I thought I knew my kid well enough to predict how this would go. In her school plays and musicals, she's the kid who spends part of the show either smiling and waving at mom and dad, or clamming up altogether and standing on stage like a deer in headlights. I thought cheerleading would go the same way--she would see the crowd, get nervous, and try to hide in the back, mouthing the cheers and smiling a big toothy grin at two of her spectators but not really playing along.
But a funny thing happened. Her coach put her in the front row, and except for occasionally trying to catch my eye and then pretending she wasn't looking at me when I spotted her, she did everything she was supposed to do. She yelled, she smiled, she did her moves in that precise cheerleader-y way. She looked good. She sounded good. She got it.
Though I have no idea where she got it.
I'd like to be all cool and tell you I never wanted to be a cheerleader, but I kinda did. What little girl doesn't at some point? I was no girly-girl, but there was a short time when I fancied the idea of wearing a short skirt and waving some pom-poms with a big bow in my ponytail. The other little girls on my street and at my elementary school and I used to make up cheers and play cheerleader, sometimes with the help of a girl in the neighborhood fortunate enough to actually be a cheerleader for the local pee-wee football team, and it became depressingly clear that I wasn't cut out for it. I couldn't so much as cartwheel, I could never seem to be able to remember what arm motion went with what word, and I just knew that I didn't thave that stiff, precise look to my motions that the other girls did.
Some of the girls I used to play-cheer with later went on to be real cheerleaders in middle- and high-school. I remember the week that 7th-grade girls were invited to try out for basketball cheerleading. Part of the tryouts involved making up your own cheer.
"You should try out," one of my friends said, a girl who made the team and cheered through the rest of her secondary education. "You're clever enough to come up with a cheer."
I toyed with that idea for half a day until I realized that there were different kinds of clever. Could I come up with a good 5-paragraph essay for English class? Yes. Could I come up with a good 30-second cheer? No. Most certainly and definitely no.
I didn't try out, and never regretted it. By that point in my young life, I knew I wasn't that girl. I never had the skills; I no longer had the desire.
So as Ainsley tries this world on, a world of pom-poms and matching socks and hairbows, I have no resources to help her. Not that she seems to need my help. All weekend long, she went around the house practicing her cheers, getting them mostly right with no guidance from me. No one should worry that I'm going to become a rabid, over-coaching cheer mom. I don't know enough about it to do anything besides watch and enjoy.
Sunday night, following her big debut, she sat for some time alone in her room. It's recently been made more girly; a trip to Ikea led us to buy a couple of pink flower wall lamps and a new scrolled mirror to go above her dresser so she can stand there and do her own hair. I spied her in the pink glow of her lamps, listening to Demi Lovato on her DS, her hair back in a headband, barrettes, AND a ponytail (did I mention she does her own hair now?) practicing writing her signature in her flowery newly-learned cursive hand. She is a pretty pink princess born to a mom whose only princess icon was Leia.
I know her, and yet I don't know her. She continues to surprise and amaze me as she grows up into a person that is like me in so many ways, and yet so unlike me (or Jason, for that matter.)
It's still early and cheerleading may lose its shine for her before the season is even out. She's only 7, after all. I'll support her and cheer for her (in my awkward, uncoordinated way) from the stands (or the audience, or as reader of the school paper, or whatever) no matter what she decides to do for fun through her school years. I may not always understand where she's coming from, but as her mom I'll always root for her to get where she's going.
Go, Ainsley! Go! Fight! Win!