To cheer or not to cheer, that is the question

I grew up in a household where we didn’t watch sports on TV. The cheer team at my high school was made up of only girls. And, in comparison to the dance and drill team, those cheerleaders received little, if any, respect. I disdain the objectification of women when I glimpse the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders parading around on a TV screen in a bar or other public place.

This is all not to say that I don’t enjoy sports. I do. I just don’t care for the cheer leading. Let the fans yell. Have a mascot. Pom poms? Not really necessary.

As the mom of two sons, I thought I was going to escape the cheer thing. (Silly me! Have I not learned anything as a mama? Do. not. make. assumptions!) How wrong I was. On Monday evening I walked in the front door to find my older son, who is six years old, waiting for me, a piece of paper in hand.

“I want to go to the cheer clinic, Mom. Can I?”

“What?” I asked, slipping off my shoes.

Apparently the high school cheer leaders came to my son’s elementary school and passed out invitations to a cheer clinic they are hosting next weekend. The cost? Fifteen dollars for the time of your life (according to my son). And, the real kicker? You get to perform at the boys’ high school basketball game the following Tuesday.

My son has asked about this clinic every day since he received the permission slip. My husband and I hem and haw every time he asks. We make up excuses, some of them valid (he has a swimming lesson at the same time). Some of them not valid (it could rain).

At the root of my concern is that if he does this clinic and then does the performance, he’ll be the only boy out there and he’ll be mocked until he graduates from high school. You know, that boy back in first grade who threw around pom poms? Yeah, that’s him.

Admitting these fears does not make me proud. My husband and I consider ourselves liberals. Everyone has a right to be who they are regardless of gender boundaries that society has created. Everyone has a right to love whomever they wish. But in this situation, where I fear that my son might get hassled, I find that I’m wavering. It makes me doubt myself. Where are these worries coming from? Am I more worried about what everyone thinks than I am confident about letting my child express himself?

Tonight we were out to dinner after visiting the Picasso exhibit in our city. My husband and I looked at each other when the topic of the cheer clinic came up. After a week of debates and worry, we’ve finally turned the corner. If our son wants to cheer, he can do it. This weekend he can do it and for the rest of his life, if he so chooses. And we’ll be there to support him, pom poms and all.

Goooooooooooo Team!

(photo courtesy of Stock Xchng)

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This entry was posted in Motherhood, Parenting, Politics, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to To cheer or not to cheer, that is the question

  1. Andrea says:

    I know exactly how you feel! When my oldest son (in a rare and never-repeated moment) asked for a princess dress for his 5th birthday, I didn’t get it (my excuses: it’s cheap plastic! It’s made in China! He would never really wear it!). When my younger son wanted to be a butterfly for halloween, I made him black and orange monarch butterfly wings. I have gently dissuaded him from wearing the fairy princess tu-tu and wings that a friend gave him out in public. I did let him grow his hair long, but now that other kids at school and daycare (including his traiterous twin) called him a girl, he wants it cut and has demoted his favorite color (orange) to second-to-least favorite (right above pink). I so want them to express their individuality regardless of gender assumptions of society, but I want the world to be infinitely kind and open to that expression.

    I hope your son has a great time cheering (and I hope he’s not the only boy!)

  2. Liz says:

    Andrea, this is why I love the blog world. Your comment made me feel much better — knowing that I’m not the “only one”! Thank you. I sent an e-mail to the cheer coach, asking if boys usually attended. She responded and said every year they have one or three boys. Here’s hoping 2011 is a year of at least three!

  3. Sarah says:

    Great post, Liz! Thoughtful and engaging. Three cheers for your family and I hope your son has a great time!

  4. Sunni says:

    I love your honesty here. I feel just the same. Like I am open to *whatever* my children want to be… EXCEPT football players or cheerleaders or a whole bunch of other things that push my buttons for one reason or another. Parenthood challenges me like nothing else in life has, I’m grateful for friends like you who share the journey with the ups and downs and confusing twists and turns. And I’m glad you decided to say YES to the cheer clinic! 🙂

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