It’s my time to cheer, not lead

By Anita Doberman: PNT Columnist

My older daughters, ages 4 and 6, have recently started competitive sports. The younger one is on a gymnastics team and the older one on a cheer squad.

I knew I had a competitive streak, but wasn’t aware that it would come out full force with my offspring. In fact, I started with good intentions: I told myself that competitive sports, while a big commitment, are excellent for children because they teach lessons about discipline and hard work and the importance of pushing forward when things are difficult. Also add in good eating habits and much needed exercise.

I didn’t realize I was becoming obsessed with their new activities — in my mind I was being supportive and taking a pro-active interest in their training. I rationalized that after all I was a dancer in a previous life and my interest in their sports was natural, from one athlete to another.

I should have known something wasn’t right when after two days of practice, I imagined myself in a cheerleading uniform with giant red pom-poms, but I told myself that I was justified because while we didn’t have cheerleaders in Italy we knew of their popularity from American movies and television shows, and I always wanted to be one.

I thought gluing my face to the window for an hour and a half while my children practiced and wanting to “suggest” techniques to stretch or learn a headstand to the coaches was warranted because I had taught Yoga and fitness and knew about injury prevention — never mind I know little about gymnastics or cheerleading. Luckily my little ones kept me busy chasing them around so I wasn’t able to share my opinions with the instructors.

I even told myself that tumbling down our living room floor trying to memorize my daughter’s routine was completely rational – after all I am a very enthusiastic person.

My competitiveness didn’t abate when my husband pointed out I was very caught up in the children’s activities and when he called from overseas that was all I talked about. I dismissed him as a man not understanding the excitement of girl’s things.

It wasn’t until I saw a young gymnast crying at my daughter’s first meet that I realized I had to back off. This girl looked so sad while her mother kept telling her that “they” had worked so hard for this that I understood the meaning of parents who try to fulfill their aspirations through their children’s lives, and I didn’t want to become one of them.

I took a step back and told myself that one reason I studied dance for as long as I did was probably the fact that my parents didn’t push me, but rather let me find my own passions and pursue my interests in my own time.

I believe that as long as my children have fun and love what they are doing, and I can keep my competitiveness at bay, without my face plastered to their gym window it will be beneficial to them. The moment they stop having fun and decide to move on, I will support them 100 percent and not push them into something they don’t want to do.

From now on I will encourage my children from a safe distance.

Only one thing, though, can I still get my hands on some pompoms, maybe really tiny ones?

Anita Doberman is a freelance writer, mother of five and wife of an Air Force pilot stationed at Hurlburt AFB in Florida. The family expects to be moving to Cannon Air Force Base in the next year. Contact her at: