As my kids continue to grow and show a fair amount of success, I have found my role as “anti-cheerleader” is not a solitary one. Of course, I will be there to support them and attempt to out yell my wife as we cheer them to the finish line. I will ask them how they did on a test. If they reply they got the extra credit and got over 100%, I will still tell them great job. However, I do have a darker side…
I truly want them to do their best in whatever they do. I want the cross country medals to accumulate, and I want the report cards to reflect how bright my children are in EVERY subject. As much cheer as I may push up through my aging pours and out of my receding gum lined mouth, I secretly rejoice when the reply to my questions is not stated with a smile and absolute beamingness! I do want my children to fail or at least disappoint themselves sometimes. And, it is this warped and un-American view that makes me an anti-cheerleader.
The anti-cheering can present itself in a variety of ways. These are only a few examples:
- At a recent cross country meet, a male runner (a sophomore) at my girl’s school finished second in the state meet. He was beaten by a senior, so it all seemed to be as it should be. When I spoke to the boy’s father, the father also told me he was secretly cheering for the other boy. He did not want his son to have success too early. He wanted his son to struggle and have to strive for being the best in state for at least another year. After his admission, we did the secret “anti-cheer” handshake. It is pretty secret, but did involve handshakes used on “Mork & Mindy” and “Star Trek” while giving a Bronx cheer. (i.e. raspberry)
- My daughter worked very hard on a paper the night before it was due. She had known about it for a week, but chose to wait until the very last minute to try and get it done. If she would have gotten it done earlier, the teacher could have provided feedback on her rough draft. Since she chose to begin and complete her paper in one evening, I secretly hoped she didn’t get an “A” on her paper. She probably did fine, but not all of my “anti-cheering” cheers have equal success!
- Anti-cheering can have some darker moments. My exchange daughters are not the most athletic, but they tried out for basketball. Their skills have plenty of room for improvement, but since so few girls tried out for the team, they could easily make the team by default. There is not cutting of players when you don’t have enough to cut. If they choose to play, we will have to work around a very ugly practice schedule (one gym shared by 4 teams [junior high and high school of both genders] ,means before school, after school, and at other school are all options.) The true darkness on this type of anti-cheering comes from my laziness-or, as I prefer to refer to it-my busyness.
- A friend of mine’s son has made a few bad decisions lately. As his son’s court date nears, he wants his son to escape with minimal pain from the legal process. (The lawyer fees have prevented the lesson from being absolutely painless.) But, he wants the judge to assess his son’s situation, and make the penalty harsh enough that making future bad decisions will not pass the “it is so worth it” test! (I believe this is the true high end of anti-cheering.)
Please don’t be offended or call Children’s Services on me. I think many children today have lost the ability to “fail with dignity”. They believe they are required to meet all of their parents goals for them. Even if children don’t understand their parents are living vicariously through them, they feel the pressure to achieve to their parents expectations–whatever the cost! They see failure as something to absolutely avoid rather than something that sometimes happens.
Life’s hiccups keep us humble. And, if we can learn at a young age hiccups are too be expected rather than always holding our breath to avoid a series of hiccups, we might not be so hard on ourselves when lives plan forks off from the plan we are “sure” is the right one. Life has been a good teacher for a few thousand years. It has not always been a fair teacher, but it hasn’t killed off our race yet. I am grateful when I am allowed to watch the consequences of life teach my kids great life lessons….it is why us “anti-cheerleaders” work so hard to be good parents.