A couple of years ago, I signed my daughter up to do recreational cheer at our community park. A lot of the girls already had some basic tumbling skills which their moms told me they learned from taking tumbling classes at a local gym. I inquired about classes and soon enough my little four-year-old was burning energy one hour a week and learning the basics of cartwheels and forward rolls.
Lining the walls of this gym were banners, trophies, and tons of team pictures with girls in beautiful cheerleading uniforms and pretty makeup. My four-year-old at the time was enthralled with those pictures. She would often ask if she could PLEASE be on a team like that with the pretty outfits. I knew nothing about all star cheerleading, but a year or so passed and my daughter continued to put in effort and show some natural skill in the sport. I knew some other moms who were going to put their daughters on a team so I thought, why not, we will give it a try.
I often joke that I never thought I would be cheering for cheerleaders. I was introduced to a whole new world of competitive sports. We enjoyed the first year and decided to keep going for a second season. I watched my daughter and her teammates pour hours of dedication and hard work into their practices and routines. They had their first competition and got 1st place — we were so excited for this season to begin! Then, about two months ago, just a week before their second competition, my daughter fell during a tumbling exercise and broke her elbow. A surgery and two pins later, we were on the road to recovery, but we were devastated by her injury and the fact that we weren’t sure how much of the season she would be able to participate in.
This was my first real dose of learning how to watch my child sit on the sidelines. Here are some things I learned:
1. It’s ok to be sad: I found myself feeling really guilty about how sad I was. How could I be this upset when other parents are facing so much worse? I had some friends tell me it was ok to feel how I felt. She was my baby, and it was ok for it to be a big deal for me. My brain told me she would recover and get back out there in no time, but my heart was aching for what I felt like she was missing.
2. Kids are resilient: Really, they are. You hear this all the time, but I am here to tell you it’s true. My daughter is the definition of dramatic (she gets it from her dad) and she never once complained. She amazed me at how much she saw the positive in what happened. Instead of complaining that she couldn’t practice, she took the opportunity to call herself an assistant coach. Instead of whining about not being able to shower in her cast, we had “spa” days where she got her hair washed in the sink and a bath bomb in the tub. Her surgery was on a Tuesday and she wanted to go back to school on Thursday. It really taught me that they are stronger than we think.
3. You’re never too young or old to learn a lesson: I am sure this will not be the last of the injuries my kids will have if they continue to stay active in sports, but it did teach us a few lessons. I learned a lesson on perspective. Your perspective changes when something is taken away from you out of your control. For my daughter, she learned how to sit on the sidelines. How to be a good teammate. How to still show up for your team even when you can’t participate. A lesson I hope she uses forever. One day, it won’t be a physical injury that gets her down. Maybe it will be a bad grade or a broken friendship. Maybe it will be losing a loved one or not getting a promotion at work. I know the lessons she is learning now are preparing her for how she handles tough situations in the future.