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Last week Fiona tried out for the cheerleading squad at school. Tryouts were held for three days, during lunch. She learned routines. She came home and practiced from dinner until bedtime. She talked endlessly about how much fun she was going to have being on the team with her friends and cheering at basketball games.
I mentioned a few times that more girls were trying out than would get in. She nodded, smiled, and said lightly “I know!” But I could tell that she didn’t. She was sure she would make it.
Fiona’s always been good at everything she’s tried. Even if she doesn’t have a natural ability for something, she makes up for it with hard work and practice. She doesn’t expect anything to be handed to her, but she also assumes that if she puts in the work she’ll get the reward. She’s never seen it not happen that way.
On day three of tryouts I picked her up at school, and I could tell instantly that something was very, very wrong. My bubbly girl was not smiling. She was slumped in her seat. She didn’t even raise her head to say hi to me. She didn’t just look disappointed, she looked…embarrassed.
I asked her gently what was wrong, but I already knew. She hadn’t made the squad. Neither had eight other girls in her class. “There were ten of us crying all day. But only nine of us were crying over cheerleading. One girl’s bird had died so she was crying about that. By the end of the day there were no tissues left.”
I pulled some Kleenex out of my purse. We sat there in the auditorium and I let her cry for about half an hour. There was nothing I could say to make her feel better – only getting on the team would do that – so I just listened. She described the injustices of the tryout process (not everyone had gotten to show their tricks on the last day – she was sure her high kicks and splits would have convinced them). She told me how unfair it was that most of the fourth and fifth graders had gotten in, but almost none of the third graders. And how they mostly seemed to pick the people they knew from an afterschool program that she didn’t go to.
And then she asked me if I would talk to the people in charge.
I took a deep breath. When your child is crying you want to make it all better. But there was nothing I could do. Nothing I was willing to do to change the outcome. She hadn’t made the team. Whether because of a bias toward older girls or girls they knew better, or some other reason, she hadn’t made it, and she had to abide by their decision. I told her no, there was nothing I could do to get her on the team. She would have to wait until next year and try again. And I reminded her about all the things she gets to do that will help her get ready for next year’s tryouts: dance classes, cheerleading at summer camp, and all of her dance video games.
She cried all the way home. She sniffled through homework. She pouted through dinner. I asked her if there was anything she would have done differently in the tryouts if she could, and she said no. I asked her if she had tried her hardest, and she said “Of course!” And I told her something I hope she keeps in mind for her whole life:
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Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 13. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.