Bring It On – Elitism or Snobbery?

My younger daughter made a competitive level cheerleading team this spring. But I’m ill-equipped for the relational challenges her involvement presents. I’ve been thrown into an environment I don’t know how to navigate, and my usual protocol of hiding in the crowd isn’t working.

stunt cheerNow, I’m not talking the pom-pom waving skin show that usually typifies the sport, rather this is stunt cheer – a group athletic event that combines gymnastics and dance. I have always loved the idea of cheerleading, but my high school deemed the sport demeaning to women. (Which was code for too expensive. We didn’t have a football team either, we had rugby – so yeah, football without the equipment pretty much.)

And then I found out how expensive cheer is. To quote Bing in White Christmas it’s “somewhere between ouch and boing!” Now, I’m not independently wealthy – far from it. My daughter and I had to work together to earn the money for cheer. I sold a few more articles – she took a paper route to pay for half the monthly fee (you have to be dedicated to the sport to deliver flyers every week even in the snow).

However, the elitism is starting to drive me pretty insane. We haven’t even had a competition yet, and the mothers are backstabbing and whispering. “So and so doesn’t deserve to be on this team.” “I don’t like the coach. Next year, I’m taking my daughter to such and such club.” “I make Cindy-lou practice her tumbling for an hour on the trampoline every day.” “Mary’s enrolled in the tumbling for cheerleaders class on Saturdays because she has to have her double back-handspring before Christmas.” [because the 4 hours a week they already train apparently isn’t sufficient] Mother to cheerleader “You better be in the front row where I can see you this year. I’m not paying all this money for you to get lost in the back row.” (her daughter’s six)

And hockey parents get a bad rap! I’m having flashbacks to high school.

Now, bluster and puffery aside (I mean, these moms may just be all talk), being a cheerleader doesn’t define you. Being a good soccer player didn’t define me. It was something I enjoyed and was good at, but there was more to me than being an athlete.

I encourage my daughter to work hard and do her best. I don’t have to nag or force her to practice – she begs me to watch her. She watches the clock to make sure we’re not late. She makes sure her homework is finished every night, and the child who detested school has managed an A on every test so far. She’s focused in practise and doesn’t goof off like some of the others. She’s learning so many life skills through cheerleading that I consider it an investment well spent.

And who knows – freelancing is a bit like feast or famine. I can scrape the money together now – who knows what next year will bring. Carpe Deim.

Now, I wasn’t popular in high school. I was voted ‘the girl you marry, not date.’ I have too many opinions (as you may have noticed) and strict morals, and a penchant to write scathing letters, plays and stories that thinly veil the real villains of my world. I sit by myself at the gym and generally try to ignore the catty gossip going on around me. (Of course, the fact that I’m so shy I come across as snobbish doesn’t help my popularity either.)

I arrive in track suits, hair in a pony-tail, no makeup (hey, I wear a bra – I’m not completely uncouth) toting my laptop to work on the extra assignments I’ve taken on to pay for cheer. The other moms strut in wearing power suits or matching outfits with coordinating bags and jewellery, and gather together in a group to gossip and chit-chat. Their high-heeled leather boots clack across the linoleum floor right past the ‘please remove all footwear’ sign in the lobby. I watch these mothers, while shivering in my sock feet, and wonder if they’re really better than me – because that’s what they’d like everyone to think.

Not to say all the moms are like that, but it seems like at least half my daughter’s team are there because their moms are making them go. They’re forced to do cheer, and pushed to succeed, because their moms were cheerleaders. And while I struggle to pay for cheer, their daughters are also in competitive dance, or competitive figure skating, and complain about how to choose which competition to attend because they can’t be in two places at once.

It’s become glaringly obvious that this is a rich person’s sport – and I’m not rich. I don’t fit in. And to be honest, I don’t want to. Part of me wants to pull my daughter out when she comes home asking for outfits from Lulu Lemon – a store I’ve never set foot in. I want to cover her ears and rush her out the back door before the elitism infects her.

But maybe that makes me just as bad as the moms who put their daughters in cheer for the prestige?

I watch my daughter practice, and listen to her chatter about landing this stunt or that tumbling line. She lights up every time she gets to go to practice. This is what cheerleading does for her – for now. So instead, I’m striving to provide balance. I reinforce that being a cheerleader is a lot of fun, but it doesn’t make you better than everyone else – it makes you an athlete who must train hard and be dedicated to be successful.

Who’s The Villain?

But my stand-offish refusal to wear the plastic Barbie façade is also sending a message to my daughter. What’s a mom to do? Do you just suck it up, and endure the cattiness and gossip – smile and nod? Do you walk away from the sport? What’s the right thing to do? I see the way the other moms stare at my attire, at my fingers clicking over the keyboard and pausing to wave when my daughter looks to see if I’m watching (yes, I am an expert multi-tasker). But, at the same time, I’m sure they catch my glances at their clothes, their heavy makeup – and perhaps even see the judgement on my face.

Perhaps the elitism works both ways? Food for thought.

It only makes you stronger 🙂

Lisa

“It would be different if one had tried to tell the whole truth. That would have some value.” – Ernest Hemingway

“A woman is like a teabag – you never know how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” Eleanor Roosevelt

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17 comments on “Bring It On – Elitism or Snobbery?

  1. What a great post. Sometimes we do come across as just as catty and elitist when all we are trying to do is ignore the people who are actually catty and elitist. And they probably aren’t all bad. Hopefully you will have a chance to talk to them, let them know what you are doing sitting by yourself typing away. Maybe when you’re a famous author you can sign a book for them all to share 😉

  2. Perhaps the elitism does work both ways but at least your daughter can observe both sides and figure out for herself what attitude seems more appropriate. You should get to know the moms and writing an undercover tell-all of cheer mom scandal 🙂

  3. This really is a great post. In my school, cheerleaders were the… not-so-cool people (completely opposite from the rest of America). We would experience a similar thing when we would go to competitions with other schools where the cheerleaders were the most popular. They would look at us like we had two heads or something because our girls weren’t stick thin with legs longer than Heidi Klum’s.

    But I know we had one thing most of them didn’t: we were having fun. We were there because we enjoyed cheering. It was exciting and we had a lot of fun doing it. And it was nice when we took 2nd from their perfectly manicured little paws on occasion. 😉

    I say support your daughter, do what you have to do, and don’t let the women get to you. Chances are that they’re unhappy with where they’re at in life and are trying to live vicariously through their own children. When you see one looking your way, flash her a smile, or if you’re standing next to one, make a small comment about how well their daughter is doing. But don’t let them break who you are. Your daughter will learn more from you dedication to her than from attempts to fit in with the other moms.

    • Thanks Samantha. Somedays, trying to a good mom feels like I’m two steps behind where I need to be in any situation – just stumbling through and hoping for the best. 🙂 Appreciate the support.
      Lisa

  4. Situations like that are great “fodder” to be incorporated into future stories you will write! Keep notes…! Some of the crazy experiences I have had in various workplaces are all good fuel for a good story, and that’s how I hope to use them. Turning something uncomfortable into something good…

  5. Not being a mom I can’t really comment on how it must feel to see the elite squad chatting away. However, I’ve had my share of moments where the supposed elite squad peer over with obvious disgust when I arrived at school to pick our youngest up. I work hard for a living so if I turn up in my work gear I see nothing to be ashamed of. I tend to hide my smile when I see a pack of snobby mothers in their finest clothing, make- up caked on. I feel a bit sorry for them, at how shallow they feel they need to be.

    Life for some is all about appearances, and whilst some may have high powered careers there are plenty of others who just love to thrust an image down people’s throats, false as it is. I think you’re doing the right thing, providing your daughter with an outlet that makes her happy but at the same time keeping her grounded in reality.

  6. I had a similar experience with my daughter, although not in cheerleading. I put myself out there for her, even served on the council, but in the end (3 years later) my daughter made the decision she was going to walk away because she didn’t want to be like them. I’ve always taught all my girls it matters more what is on the inside than the outside. In this case, it mattered to her what she was becoming. She didn’t like it and instead of ‘sucking it up’, being a mean girl, she walked away. There were college scholarships involved, but she walked away anyway. I couldn’t have been prouder of her than I was then. Hang in there. Do what you have to do to support your daughter, because in the end, her knowing you are willing to support her in any situation, will be worth more than you know.

  7. Great post. Whatever the activity, there’ll be the moms (and dads) sitting on the sidelines, in the stands, behind the glass, in the audience and Lordy-Be, their little one is most certainly the center of the universe. 😉 And for each activity there will be a different breed of parent.

    I’m a soccer mom, orchestra mom, drama mom, and soon to be hip-hop dancer mom. haha! I’m not 100% ‘in’ with the parents of each of these groups. I’m probably most at home as the soccer mom, but when I’m in the other ‘audience’, I’m there for my child so I attempt to go with it and make up stories in my head and try not to roll my eyes.

    That said, cheer moms are seriously a special, alien breed! Good luck! It sounds like your daughter truly loves it and of course that’s all that matters. Good for her and her paper route. Awesome!

  8. I had 5 kids in soccer and I can totally relate to the “class” structure in parents of these sports kids. I am the same as you, jeans, T-shirt and textbook (for most of their years in soccer I went to college so soccer offered extra time to study).

    I am like you in that I like to fade in the background and did it so well that I wasn’t even aware of their opinions about me until I mistakenly offered to be treasurer. WOW! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and seeing. I was approached by many parents looking to win my aligence for or against whatever issue of the moment.

    My kids saw and heard so much of the craziness they lost faith in the game but I always reminded them the goal was to play and have fun, the rest of it was not worth our time. My kids have seen me stand up and make noise when the situation needed but also seen me ignore what was going on around me when it detracted from our goals.

    My only advice is to be as oblivious as I was and ignore the static. The goal always has and always will be your daughter so tune out whatever detracts from that.

    But…some of the antics I saw makes for interesting stories 🙂

  9. Wonderful post. I have no children, so I’ve never been any sort of a “mom” and can’t relate to the specifics of your plight. But, I want to applaud you for actually being a PARENT to your daughter and not trying to be her best buddy as I se so many women doing. I can relate to the snobbery. Imwas lucky enough to marry well, and thus became a member in one of the most prestigious country clubs in town. I go there to workout and have lunch. I wear old T-shirts and shorts — no Lululemon for me either — and for a long time felt like a total imposter. And then it dawned on me that a lot of the people are just as insecure as I am, for all their own reasons.

    So keep up the great work, mom. Your daughter appreciates all that you are doing for her

  10. What a great post. Human insecurities manifest in so many different ways, don’t they? I have only one small piece of advice here for you. As a writer, you can mine these encounters for characters and scraps of dialogue. Think of these trips to the gym as research, a trip to the well of plenty.

    Happy mining,
    Prudence

    http://www.prudencemacleod.com/

  11. This was a wonderful, honest and thought-provoking post. And, wow, did it bring me right back to high school (where I was not one of the popular kids. Shy, poor and a bit chubby I was not cheerleader material) I can understand your dilemma. Those catty moms, under all their fancy clothes and high heeled boots are insecure – pushing their kids so they can live vicariously through them. Your daughter will gain confidence through the cheerleading, but she will find a balance. Somehow I can’t imagine her growing up to be one of those snooty, shallow, gossiping moms because that’s not how you raised her.
    I love, love what Prudence said. “happy mining” is right!

  12. As a father of a two-month-old girl, I shiver at the thought of cheer moms in their leopard prints kvetching and being generally catty. And heaven help the cheer mom that says something snide about my little girl within earshot. I’ve only had this kid for a sixth of a year, but I just know I’m going to be vicious to anybody who hurts her.

    And at the same time, I think you’re right to question whether you might try extending an accepting smile to some of these moms. They sound very insecure. Sometimes a bully/bitch can turn into a fast friend if you go out of your way to make them feel like you accept them unconditionally, and recognize that they are a parent just like you, full of all the same fears you have about doing things right.

  13. Pingback: Bring it On – Elitism or Snobbery - Lisa Hall-Wilson

  14. Good post, Lisa. And cheerleading does run in the family – I was a cheerleader for one season 🙂 I was nowhere near the best, and the other girls were kind of snobby, but I enjoyed my year and have a few pics to show for it. Go Jenna! You might be surprised at how insightful she really is about all this.

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