During my senior year I spent Friday nights under the lights, cheerleading at my high school’s football and basketball games. Our job was to support and encourage the home team, but we spent more time perfecting our cheers and dance routines than studying the nuances of the game. Once a coach gave us a mini clinic to make sure we understood the sport well enough to do the right cheer at the appropriate time.
I no longer fit in those short, pleated skirts or carry a crinkly pair of red and blue pom poms, but parenting and adulthood continually provide opportunities to hone cheerleading skills of a different sort in support of friends, family, and the students I teach one day a week in our Classical Conversations program. Just as often, those same friends and family — and yes, even the students — bless me with the same.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up . . .
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)
When my kids were younger, I served as president of our homeschool group. I soon learned that the best way to serve was not to take on more work for myself but to delegate authority to other moms and then step aside and become their cheerleader. If you’re a perfectionist like me, it can be hard to let go, but it allows someone else the chance to shine and it gives you the opportunity to cheer them on with grace and humility.
This can be extra difficult for us as parents. We want things done right, and we may not believe our kids can (or will) do them as well. If we’re not careful, however, the desire to shield our children from failure will deny them the chance to take responsibility for and learn from their actions, both good and bad.
We’ve all heard the term helicopter parents: those who hover over their children in an over-controlling and over-protecting manner, taking on responsibilities that should belong to the child. Now we’re warned of the crippling effects of the lawnmower parent: those who mow down all obstacles, challenges, or discomforts in their child’s path.
Children who are never allowed to make hard decisions won’t know how to handle them when they leave the nest. It’s better to fail while you’re still at home, in a safe environment, with loving hands extended to catch you when you fall and your people standing on the sidelines to cheer you on and encourage you to get back up and try again.
We all have fears and insecurities — things we don’t believe we can do — but when a friend trusts and believes in you, it creates a safe space for personal growth. My friend Melissa’s unconditional, jealousy-free support has been a gift to me when I need encouragement, a gentle nudge, or even a firm push to try things beyond my experience or comfort zone. (Encouragement is a superpower. So is loyalty.)
She said, “This is your time,” a few years ago when I decided to pursue book publishing. I’ve never forgotten her words. More recently she said, “I will if you will,” and we jumped, fully dressed, onto the homemade slip ’n’ slide at our church’s Labor Day picnic.
Having a cheerleader on your side makes you feel like you can do anything, big or small.
It’s been a joy to write college recommendation letters for my former Classical Conversations students and see what paths they pursue. I’ve cheered them into adulthood, attended their weddings, been a reference on their job applications.
This week two students who graduated in the spring returned to my classroom to judge a debate. Before offering constructive criticism, they emphasized all the good things my students had done. I love seeing former students return as both judge and cheerleader and how current students learn from the advice and glow with the praise.
I received a letter last month from a recent graduate, written just before he left for his freshman year of college. He thanked me for what I taught and how I influenced him. I’ll never throw it away. I’ve cheered for him for years, and now he’s returned it to me.
I support a growing team of essential oil users. I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t always looked after them the way I should. The more I educate, serve, and cheer them on, the more knowledgeable and confident they are in what they’re doing. They positively bloom!
You can encourage and cheer on those around you in little and big ways, and I hope you know you don’t need a megaphone or a sporting event to cheer for the home team!