I’ve decided to do a series of posts based on memories of my dad. I feel that he deserves to be remembered in this way and more importantly I want to document my memories here so that my tiny children will one day be able to read about him and learn to love him like I do.
As an eighth grader in junior high school I decided that I would try out for cheerleader. In my school those who wanted to try out would spend a few weeks learning a cheerleading routine and getting the general gist of what it takes to be a good cheerleader. It looked like a lot of fun but the most important reason for trying out was that all of the most popular girls were on the varsity cheerleading squad.
After you spent a few weeks fumbling with the routine you would go in front of a panel of judges who would weed out the clumsy from the graceful. There were 8 open spots and the panel would narrow the field down to 16 eager cheerleading wannabes. Those 16 would go in front of the entire school and perform their routines during an assembly. The students would then vote and the 8 girls with the most votes would then make the squad. It was definitely a popularity contest.
I made the initial cut and it was on to the final round where my teenage dreams of popularity were sure to be fulfilled. I had practiced the routine so much that I think my whole family could perform it in their sleep. I think they were all near the breaking point, breaking my neck point that is.
The day of the final tryout came and I was ready in my red shorts and white t-shirt (school colors). Even my tennis shoes were tied with read and white laces. I walked out to the middle of the gym floor with the other girls and one by one we performed our routine. I was terribly nervous but I turned the anxiety in to energy and did a flawless routine. I was good!
For the rest of the day I had many people telling me how good I was and that they voted for me. One girl’s mom even brought balloons over to my house because she was sure I was going to win (she was hoping I would befriend her daughter I think).
They were all wrong. I didn’t make the squad and I was devastated. One of the girls who made the squad had only moved into our school district about 2 months before the tryouts. How could she have made the squad when I didn’t?
I cried all evening. Later my mom told me that I even cried in my sleep that night. It was hard to go to school the next day but I forced myself to go so that I could get it over with. An invisibility cloak would have been a nice thing to have on that day. Most people were sympathetic but a few of the boys made fun of me.
I shunned all things cheerleader from then on. I went the student government route and learned that I’m not really the cheerleading type. In my old age I’ve found that the feminist in me finds the whole cheerleading thing to be a bit distasteful.
One day, as an adult, I was reminiscing with my parents about trying out for cheerleader and my dad mentioned that he had been praying that I wouldn’t make the squad. He had been worried because not only were the cheerleaders very popular but they were also a pretty fast group of kids. It was an association he was not anxious for me to participate in.
I confess that I felt a little bit betrayed at first, even though I was a grown woman. Then it began to dawn on me that he had acted out of wisdom and love. I was glad that he cared enough and was wise enough to pray for the things that would be best for me even if it meant I would have to go through a little bit of pain. He knew that I would learn and grow and come out a better person.
I also learned that my dad loved me no matter what. He didn’t care if I was popular or pretty. He just loved me, Kristen, the girl who got cut from the cheerleading squad.
Funny as this may sound that experience taught me to trust in my Father in Heaven more too. I learned that sometimes parents, both heavenly and earthly, want what’s best for their children even if it means their children have to go through a little pain and sorrow.