Although I’ve been Certifiably CheerMAD for 17 years, don’t sit next to me at a competition if you want to know how a routine compared against others in its division. I have a couple of friends I sit with at comps who are real good at seeing things like deductions and questionable moves but I don’t think I’ll ever master that.
But one thing I can do is read my daughters’ body language no matter how bright the lights or how much spring board floor is between us. I didn’t see half of a pyramid fall but I knew immediately when Becky hyper extended her elbow and dislocated it, never flinching, not missing a beat until the music stopped and she ran off holding her arm as if it were ready to fall off.
I knew, not by the look on Rachel’s face, but by the way she grasped her flyer’s leg, that she was off-balance and kept the stunt afloat nonetheless.
I knew, by the side glance Becky would give me, a miniscule of a smile of frown, which way I should head as she descended the stairs from the stage.
If the routine goes well, I seek them out on the side of the arena where they’ve exited. If it doesn’t go well, I know not to go near them. I watch from afar, my heart breaking because a stunt that never, ever falls chose to collapse on this particular day. I want to run up and hug away their disappointment, but know that they have to go through this by themselves.
Nothing I could say would ease their pain anyway, but they know I’m close by when they are ready to be consoled. I resist the urge to protect them and know that I can’t even if I really wanted to.
Somethings are just out of our control. The first time the three of us went to CHEERSPORT, Becky in her last year as an Super Senior Allstar and Rachel in her first year as a mini 1, I was concerned about the flight home. If one child won the coveted CHEERSPORT jacket, the other would be in sibling-rival-land. And if that child wearing the jacket was Rachel, it sure wasn't going to be pretty.
In the end, both their teams earned jackets and the uncomfortable, painful exit from Atlanta was diverted. It was a special family moment for us but I know parents of sibling athletes deal with it every weekend: Happy for the child who comes out with the first placement, teaching lessons in grace and acceptance to the one who doesn't.
Like many things in cheering, it’s a life lesson for parent and child.