Today we are at yet another cheer competition — we’ve been gone countless weekends this season, competing in different arenas and exploring different cities. My bank statements are filled with hotel charges and team dinners, and it’s been tough to be away from your younger brothers so much.
We had to wake up extra early this time to get your hair and make-up just so. You reminded me to be careful not to get mascara on your uniform, and I smiled as I saw through your eyes just how important this was to you. After paying $20 to park and spending another $40 just to walk through the door to watch you perform, I am relieved that your team does well. Afterwards, everyone congregates around the vendor tables as you and your teammates stare wide eyed at the sea of sparkly bows, shirts, jackets, and pins. Every competition, it is the same — moms begin gathering armloads of possessions to buy their children, while you stare longingly at them. I can almost see the thoughts swirling through your brain, envy and sadness apparent on your face.
“Lucy’s mom is buying her five shirts!” you exclaim. I nod politely.
“That water bottle is really cute,” you hint. Again, I hold steadfast.
I see your reserve deflate like a balloon as you finally have the courage to mutter, “Can I at least get a pin?”
How can I explain to you that it’s not about the money, and never was? I, too, could stand in line and overload my arms with overpriced shirts and pins, or just buy something for you because everyone else is doing it. Even though I’m an adult, I still feel the strain of peer pressure. I also know that it’s difficult to stand by and watch your friends get handed things, like a new trampoline a month before Christmas, just because — or $50 to the mall on a random Saturday simply because they’re bored. I realize that in the world of a tween girl, it’s easy to compare yourself to your friends and focus on what you don’t have.
I know it’s tough to understand, but your sense of perception is skewed. We don’t live in an area where the average child is represented, nor have we ever. Not every kid has a birthday party that costs more than a month’s worth of groceries or receives a shiny new car on their 16th birthday. There are kids in our country and in our very state who don’t know where their next meal will come from, or if their electricity is going to be shut off when they arrive home that day from school. Things like cheer bows and the opportunity to participate in competitive cheer, in general, is something unobtainable that they truly can’t even fathom as they twirl their fingers through the holes of their hand-me-down shoes.
I don’t expect you to grasp how privileged you are. I know that you’re at an age where you can only focus on what you don’t have, but please try to concentrate on everything that you’re given. Many girls would kill for your wardrobe, warm house, and kindhearted teachers who genuinely care about your success. If I teach you validation through material possessions, you will never recognize your true worth. You will grow up pertpertually chasing a happiness that will never exist.
Sometimes it’s incredibly difficult for me not to indulge you all the time. I absolutely love being able to do fun things with you, and I am so grateful that I’m able to do so. Sometimes it’s so tempting to be the mom loading her arms with shirts and showering you with material things. Here’s the truth, though — doing so would truly be a disservice to you. I’d be setting your expectations too high and teaching you the wrong values. I don’t want you to ever feel entitled and think that the world owes you something — it doesn’t. I believe in sensibility and moderation. I, too, am in love with shopping and admittedly find joy in material possessions, but there needs to be a balance.
I know you don’t always realize the sacrifices that we’ve made for you. Each of our parenting decisions has been centered around school districts and opportunities for you to partake in. We’ve agonized over test scores and bus routes more than you’ll ever know. Here’s the part you don’t see:
*Our higher food bill, which allows you access to three healthy meals a day.
*Our mortgage and taxes, which provide you with a beautiful, safe home in a great district.
*The time we sacrifice and the schedules we juggle — with a three year old and one year old — to make sure that you can participate in all the activities that interest you.
*The money we set aside each month so that you’ll be able to attend overnight camp during the summer months, one of your favorite parts of the year.
At the very last competition of the season, I decided to splurge a little. I let you pick out a few overpriced items, and the gratitude shone brightly through your eyes as you hugged me tight.
“Thank you, Mom. I really appreciate these,” you whispered. You didn’t see my own tears that day — tears of relief and gratitude. You see, I often wonder if I’m doing this ‘parenting thing’ right. I love you so much that sometimes it hurts, and I am constantly trying to strike a balance between giving you the most magical childhood that I’m capable of while simultaneously raising a healthy, balanced future adult that values people over possessions.
Dear daughter, I will never give you everything. But I will give you my unconditional love, acceptance, pride, honesty, empathy, and always promise to be the mom that you need. You might not realize it now, but gratitude and balance are lifelong gifts — I can’t wait for the day when you realize that you’ve received them all along. Until then and always, I am your biggest cheerleader.