I recently realized that I am at a point in my life where being a cheerleader is a primary role. Now this may conjure up some pretty funny images (I abandoned the appropriate age and body type in the 80s), but nonetheless, it is an apt description. My youngest is 16, so there is little hands-on parenting for me to do on a day-to-day basis and the others are all over 18, so for the most part, I’m done. Except of course, for the cheerleading.
I have certainly done my share on the sidelines – baseball, softball, basketball, soccer games, band and color guard competitions, curtain calls on the stage (I think they can pick my voice out, judging from the smile or grimace I see on their faces), but I am really referring to a more subtle form.
I came to this realization the other day, while waiting for the conclusion of a voice lesson. My son has been preparing for an important audition and that is one area that I am woefully inadequate to help with. While I was feeling bad about my shortcomings, it came to me that it might be for the best. What he really needs from me now is not the instruction, but the support. Since I know almost nothing about how to coach someone to sing, I cannot over-coach or nag while trying to be helpful. All I can do is provide love and emotional support and do my best to reduce the stress.
In some areas of my children’s lives, I have been too helpful. With things that I know how to do well, I want to share my knowledge and experience and help my kids improve. But, perhaps that is not what they have needed from me. I have seen frustration when I have gotten over-involved and too “helpful.” I guess in some cases, I should leave things to the experts (even if I am also an expert in the area) and just be Mom. It is a tough line to walk, trying to figure out when and how much to help my children. I want them to succeed, but recognize that failure is a part of that. Lessons are best learned if you make the occasional mistake. Having said that, I want their mistakes to be little ones, so the impact of these mistakes is minimized. I also want them to be independent. I want them to go out into the world confident that they can succeed and make a difference. I want them to be able to care for themselves and maybe someday, my grandchildren.
I have been accused of saying my kids are great because I am Mom and that is what I am supposed to do. This is a valid point, with exceptions. As Mom, yes, I think my kids are amazing, but I also acknowledge that they may not be amazing at everything. My own parents did a very good job at teaching me not to lie, so out-and-out lying is something I am simply incapable of doing. Also as Mom, I don’t want my kids to be hurt or made fun of. In that respect, it would be irresponsible of me to encourage them in pursuits that they are just not good at. So, if I tell them they are “good” at something, then they should believe me.
I never aspired to be a cheerleader. It was one of those girly things with the girly outfits that I would never, ever participate in. In addition, I knew a couple cheerleaders who were not so nice to others (this is where stereotypes come from) and did not want to be associated with them. [Note: I have also been blessed to know some charming, thoughtful, smart young women who have been cheerleaders.] I guess it is time to take my place on the sidelines – cheering, encouraging, and drawing attention to successes. At this point, my kids don’t need my “mothering” in the common sense. They are fully capable of handling their own basic needs. Fortunately, they still welcome my support. I do think my kids are amazing, but that is because they are, not just because I am Mom. I marvel on a regular basis that I had a hand in creating these four terrific people that are so much fun to be with.
Maybe I should have started the cheerleading earlier. Maybe those little goals could have been reached sooner. Think of the motivation: P-I-C , K-U-P, Y-O-U-R, TOYS! P-I-C , K-U-P, Y-O-U-R, CLOTHES!
[Imagine the eye rolls]
On second thought, maybe not.