Last Thursday, Adelaide came home from her first day of school with a backpack full of papers.
One of those papers was a form detailing a cheerleading clinic being offered by our high school's varsity cheerleaders for elementary girls.
I asked Adelaide if she would like to participate, and she replied in the affirmative.
So a few days ago, our daughter attended the first day of the clinic, learning cheers and pseudo-dance routines in her elementary school's gym. She had fun. It was fine.
Yesterday, she and I walked down to the high school football field for the second day of the clinic, a dress rehearsal for tonight's performance at the big football game.
I sat in the bleachers with the other moms and watched 100+ young girls yell and cheer, their faces wreathed in smiles and enthusiasm.
Except for Adelaide, that is.
It was interesting to watch her. She did all the moves, thrusting her arms up and down and to the sides in rhythm. But while her voice was yelling, "GO-BIG-RED!" her hooded eyes and dead expression communicated the message, "I hate my life."
She made it through the hour, collected her t-shirt and poms, and we began walking home. As soon as we were out of earshot of all the other families, she stopped walking, pressed her face into my stomach, and started crying.
"Adelaide, what's wrong?"
"I'm not cheering tomorrow night!"
"Why not? You did such a good job out there!"
"I can't do all that cheerleading stuff in front of all those people."
"Adelaide, you did that dance clinic just last year, and you performed in front of a lot of people then, remember?"
"Yeah, but this is different. In cheerleading they say you have to smile like every single second and I can't smile that much. IT'S JUST NOT NATURAL."
I must admit, I had to stifle my first, instinctual reaction to agree with her and go on a little rant of my own.
No offense to any current or former cheerleaders reading this. I actually really enjoy watching the national cheerleading championships on ESPN every so often. When confronted with real live cheerleaders, however, I find myself unable to handle that much smiling and pep. Because I'm with Adelaide on this one- it really is unnatural.
Instead I said something about everyone being different and it's okay if she doesn't want to smile that much. We walked the rest of the way home, talked the whole thing over with Derek, and agreed that she didn't have to perform tonight, but that this couldn't become a trend; following through on your commitments is important.
She went to bed a little less upset, but still a little bitter about cheerleading.
I went to bed satisfied that our daughter wasn't going to be a cheerleader- until this morning when she woke up and told me that she'd changed her mind, she was going to cheer at tonight's game after all. When I asked her why, she said that she'd thought about it all night and decided that she couldn't let herself be afraid to perform in front of all those people. She'd just have to cheer anyway.
That's admirable and everything, but I just keep thinking about how Adelaide the Angry Cheerleader is going to bring everyone down a bit tonight.
It should be fun.