“I’m too big to fly Mom.” A blow to the gut came as I watched my daughter’s tears roll down her cheeks; her amazing muscular body that can flip head over heels across the floor wasn’t skinny enough.
Spending the weekend at the World Cheerleading competition in Orlando this past weekend was an adventure…in self-esteem. This’s where all the beautiful, athletic people hang out, like all at once. Normally people watching at a place like Disney World conjures up the opposite state of the nation. You might come away feeling pretty good about your fitness level. But this weekend, if you weren’t 100 pounds or less you had flyer envy and your self esteem, if not badass enough, could’ve easily taken a nose dive.
My daughter started her cheerleading journey as a flyer three years ago at eleven years old; small enough to make the grade. But over a couple seasons of regular growing and some intense training her body’s too big to fly unless her base is Mr. Atlas.
Here at World’s this weekend you can actually meet a few Mr. Atlas types and fly, if they’re willing to make you their workout for the day. So my daughter got to feel good for a few moments with a couple gracious participants (Thank you – you know who you are). But when she realized she was getting turned down more than lifted up she came to me in tears.
So what’s a girl to do when her body isn’t made for flying? You base. Which is the only way the flyers get to do their thing well anyhow. Kind of like board breaking in my Tae Kwon Do class, the holder is everything. Same in cheer; it’s all about that base.
“I wanna be like Bethany,” she told me before we left for the trip, pointing to an Instagram video of one of her idols one-manning another girl. I smiled realizing she was making the most of what she has and setting a goal to be better.
But deep down I know she loves to fly, so the night tears came I had to conjure up every ounce of motherly calm and wisdom and figure out what to say to a fourteen year old girl who’s facing the reality of the life-long challenge of loving her body the way it is. All while tiny flyers went up on buff shoulders all around us.
I’m not sure my “It’ll be okay,” or my “You’re an amazing athlete,” went far. “There’s no way you could flip like you do without those muscular legs,” may have worked a little. “Maybe I could help her lose a few pounds and tone those thighs,” went through my mind and I almost gasped at myself for thinking it. I remember looking at my own muscular soccer legs in high school and dreaming up ways to make them smaller. Pretty sure I wrapped them with Saran Wrap at one point to sweat off an inch.
Nope, nothing I’ll say is going to really help her love herself and her body. She’ll have to move through this journey alone but at least she has a mom who gets it, and isn’t afraid of the tears.
The one thing I know about my athletic body, and hers, is it’s perfect the way it is, and has the potential for miraculous things. It all starts with loving it, no matter how big our thighs are.
Understanding the differences and advantages each body has, and practicing focusing on the positive aspects is how you’ll come to love what you were given. Wishing you had something different will make you miserable.
Not everyone in cheer was meant to fly. And not everyone is strong enough to base. Kinda like life – it takes a lot of different people with a lot of different skills, talents, bodies and minds to create something spectacular. Trick to flying in life is to figure out where you shine and shine so bright you blind ’em.
Cheers to all the amazing athletes we saw compete this weekend. Congrats on all of your accomplishments. We hope to see you all at World’s in the near future. And watch out for my daughter from Shockwave Allstars; one of the bad-assiest bases there.