Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Mistakes Our Parents Made

When I was younger I kept (as I assume most kids did) a list of things that my family did that I would never do to my kids. Most of the items on that list (like let my daughter wear whatever was stylish no matter what I thought of it) I am already laughing at. A few things (like never tell my kids they have to clean their plate) have actually been added on as I got older. Mostly, though, I've realized that none of them were really mistakes. Parenting choices, yes. Mistakes, no. I had a pretty great childhood, actually.

But, still. I think we all make our parenting choices by examining our parents' parenting choices. You examine what your parents did and decide how that worked out for you. Then you either run in the opposite direction or do it exactly the same way. The decision to run or copycat is not always a sensible one, but is often based on gut feelings, childhood hurts or stubbornness. Especially in my case. Let's just face it, I'm really stubborn.

We won't even talk about what I learned from examining my dad's choices, because, well, he was never really a parent, and therefore, doesn't count. (Also, if there were awards for number of commas in a sentence, that sentence would have a tiny gold statuette for it's sentence mantle piece.)

I learned a lot from my mom. Mostly, my general parenting style comes from my mom. She was always so laid back, so fun, so relaxed. But you didn't cross her. I try to get there, but Brynn crosses me all the time, so I assume I'm failing.

My grandparents had a lot to do with my raising (and yes, I know it should be rearing) too. They were always there and I have learned lots of lessons from them also.

Thanks to my grandfather, I will never, never yell at a child to quit crying.
Thanks to my grandmother, I will never, never make a child try liver.
Thanks to my mom, I will always, always be excited about the accomplishments they are excited about even if they are stupid.
Thanks to my dad, I will never, never send a birthday card in the wrong month.

See, little things.

But there is one thing that has been nagging at me for years. Sports.

I was never pushed to do sports. And, I don't know, if I had asked to play a sport, I probably would have been signed right up. I exhibited an interest in basketball and a hoop was promptly installed in the driveway. I exhibited an interest in volleyball and a net and regulation ball were promptly purchased. But I was an only child living in the country. A net and a ball do not volleyball make when you are all alone.

And, in their defense, I never wanted to play sports. I never wanted to play sports at all, even a little. I played church league volleyball for a summer or two, but other than that, I was pretty much a good-book-in-the-hammock kind of kid.

But I look at myself now and I feel like I would really have benefited from sportsly participation. You know, I might not hate the outdoors. I might enjoy something physical. I might have learned teamwork and not be such a control freak. (I can also accept that I might have complained nonstop until my mother's ears bled and still turned out to be exactly the same person I am now, but with a jersey.)

So, since Brynna could walk, I have wanted to put her in sports. An array of things have prevented that from happening:
I never seem to have any money when it rolls around,
That is, of course, assuming I know when it rolls around, because I normally miss the cut-off date,
Brynna and I can't agree on a sport

It's the last one that bothers me. You see, my daughter wants to be a cheerleader. (Shut up people who knew me in high school. And college. Oh, whatever, and ever.) A cheerleader. Cheerleaders were the bane of my existence for my 12 years of public education. (I could ignore them easier in college.) I hated those girls. Some of them were nice and some of them were pure, unadulterated evil, but it didn't matter, they put on those stupidly short skirts and got out in the gym during pep rallies and tried to rally my pep and I couldn't help but hate them.

I hated that the cheerleaders had like seven uniforms and the speech team couldn't even get a bus to tournaments. I hated that they were always practicing loudly somewhere where I wanted to be. I hated that they were always the popular girls even when they were hateful people.

And theoretically, I hate the idea of cheerleading. It's a sport (yes, I do acknowledge that it takes a great deal of athletic skill) that is based on the premise of girls not being good enough to have their own sport. It's based on cheering on the boys. Because they are better. And worthy of some sort of archaic worship.

But, I am faced with a conundrum. Is it better to force her to play soccer or football or t-ball or basketball when she doesn't want to or give in and become a *gasp* *choke* cheerleading mom? Is it pure selfishness to say no because I don't want to know how to put her hair in those ridiculous sponge rollers? Because I don't want to go to a football game and have no idea what the score was when we leave? Because I don't want to slather glitter eye shadow on my 5 year old before a competition. (And yes, I know, there probably won't even be competition until middle school, but the thought it the same. I don't want to have anything to do with glitter eye shadow EVER, okay?)

I think that if I just enrolled her in soccer or t-ball or whatever, she would probably have a great time. She would probably love it. But she might hate it. Or she might never give it a chance because she really, really wants to be a cheerleader.

And I've considered letting her do gymnastics. Because, let's face it, gymnastics rocks. And, is, sadly the basis the cheerleading. But, it all leads back to the same place. She is probably not going to the Olympics. She will probably not be on the middle of the night airings on ESPN of college gymnastics. But she just may have a closet full of cheerleading uniforms, warm-up suits, jackets and stupid swirly hairbows in high school. We may have pompoms in our house.

And then my head would explode and I would die.

So, make me feel better, Internet. What were your parents' mistakes that you are determined not to repeat? And how has that screwed you?


Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

My father's mistakes would fill 1,000 pages, if not more. Besides, from my rantings in school and on my blog, I think y'all know most of them. As for my mother, I think the only mistake she made was that she trusted me too much. I was a wild kid, and very very angry. This led me to get into all sorts of trouble.

And to put a bug in your ear about cheerleading. They have found that cheerleading is the single most dangerous sport. It has resulted in more injuries and fatalaties than any other sport. A study was recently released on it. Look it up. I know that was for high school and college sports, but it's something to think about for when she gets older.

That being said, she may only want to do cheerleading because you resist it so much. It could be that if she tried it, she wouldn't like it so much. Maybe a little reverse psychology is in order to steer Miss Brynna to something else. Just a thought. :-)

And cheerleaders pissed me off too in high school. Then I turned around and (briefly) became one in college. I have pictures to prove it. But I only did it for the scholarship, I promise. :-)

Jessi said...

Oh, I am sooo disappointed in you! :-) And now I have even more reasons to dread being a cheerleading mom.

Mrs. Allroro said...

I don't think I can judge my parents' parenting until I'm a parent, so I won't (right now).

But I will say something about cheerleading. Some of my favorite girls--some of the best leaders--that I've known in college and after were former cheerleaders. (I always found out after knowing them for some time and already having super impressions of them that they had been cheerleaders, and a couple of them were even team captains. And GSPers.) They make wonderful teachers and mission trip coordinators, etc. They also usually have pretty awesome social skills. And one of the older girls in high school who I admired the most as an actress and generally cool person had been a cheerleader when she was Brynna's age. (Her initials were K.C., I think. It's true--I saw a picture.)

I also knew a former track star who also happened to be stunningly gorgeous, who was kind of a spoiled brat. She cheated her way through high school, she told me. (She got better. Which is why we became friends.)

I don't think it's so much the sport as the materialistic, vain, overcompetitive, trying to live vicariously through the blond daughter mother that tends to go with it. I think you're gonna be okay there.

My water aerobics teacher just went back to coaching cheerleading. I loved him to pieces. I also remember a couple more wonderful friends in college who were boy cheerleaders. Boy cheerleaders tend to be very cool, friendly, easygoing people.

Cathy said...

Put her in something - it doesn't matter what, because after about 2 weeks she'll hate it and want to do something else. However, the most important part is that whatever she starts she has to finish that season/year! Trust me!

Caroline said...

I'm with you on hating the cheerleaders. One more reason I'm glad I don't have a girl. Of corse Nate will probably be bringing them home, so, awesome!

But, I think you should let her do it. She'll always wonder what would have happened. I do. And, why can't she do two? Cheerleading in the spring and soccer in the fall?

Oh, also, I totally want to see what a sentence mantle looks like, now.

Jessi said...

Yeah, I think I'm going to have to give in. Just so she knows. And if I end up being a cheerleading mom... Well, I guess I can always get one of the uniforms from the Nirvana video to make me feel better.

Sage said...

I'll say one of the best things my grandmother did was send me to swim lessons.

Like you, I was a single kid in the country and wish she'd sent me toward sports more--but I didn't have much desire for that at all, so I can't much blame her. If I had a book, I was a pretty easy kid, who can argue with that?

But I do remember swimming lessons fondly. And it totally baffles me that there are people that cannot swim.

Plus, if she likes it at all, and is good at it--you may want to look into number of swimming scholarships vs. cheerleading scholarships. My aunt would NOT let my cousins play football (even though they realllly wanted to), because they were decent at tennis and there were more scholarships out there for it.

They went to state for tennis all throughout highschool, ranking in the single digits their jr/senior years. They're both at Transy in Lexington now, on full scholarships.

(I think what I'm saying is... get her into something she likes that has a lot of scholarships out there! It might help a lot later.)