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.
(photo courtesy of Stock Xchng)