I’m so pleased today to welcome Ilene to the Growing Together series. Ilene blogs with admirable honesty and incredible beauty at The Fierce Diva Guide to Life. Her recent post, 15 Things I Have Learned about the Impossible inspired me to think differently about strength and perseverance (and almost inspired me to consider running a marathon!).
Her story here is a beautiful one of growth and helping our littles through tough times. It is so beautifully worded and portrays her and her daughter’s incredible strength.
So please, read on, and then go visit Ilene at her place.
She stared out the window as we drive down the Osceola Highway in our rented Corolla. The sun, which had broken through the clouds on what had begun as a gray, overcast day, felt oppressive.
“Do you want to go to Disney?” I ask over the robotic female voice of the GPS.
“No,” she answers in a tiny voice from the back seat.
“Do you want something to eat?”
“No, I want to go back to the hotel,” she responded, followed by a silence that felt unfamiliar from my oldest daughter, the one who was never at a loss for words.
I had no prior experience managing this level of disappointment with my children. We had weathered mean girls, difficult teachers, and countless sibling battles. Yet, on this day I was witnessing something different. It was defeat, acute and painful. There was a finality to it.
We had just left Silver Spur Arena where Miss F. performed in the national competition with her cheer squad. The build-up to nationals had been immense. They wanted to win. They were expected to win, but they didn’t. When their pyramid did not connect properly during the final seconds of the routine, they quickly transitioned from contenders to “non-winnners,” the season over, no second chances.
I had been skeptical of cheer since the beginning. I never understood, or approved, for that matter, of the “cheer culture,” girls as young as eight, in glitter eye shadow and skimpy shirts, throwing each other around for a panel of judges. I didn’t get the oversized hair bows or the competition music mixes with baritone voice overs and sounds of cymbals laid out over snippets of songs, many of which were too sexually provocative for the third graders who danced to them.
However, my skepticism was irrelevant. This was certainly not the moment for “I told you so.” This was the moment that I needed to help her get through her first major life disappointment.
I racked my brain for ways to make her feel better, for things that would cheer her up, a late lunch from the McDonald’s Drive Thru, a dip in the pool, a chocolate milkshake, a souvenir from the discounted gift store across the highway from our hotel.
That’s our instinct, right? To jump at the slightest hurt of our children and try to make it go away. We hover, we protect, we volunteer to take the bullet, all to prevent them from feeling a negative emotion.
Except disappointments happen. They are part of life. And they hurt. That’s the way it works. As a runner, I know that you can train your heart out for an event and bomb on race day. But I’ve learned from those experiences, and I’ve been able to walk away with the satisfaction of working hard at something that I love to do, even if the outcome did not go as planned.
I wanted to relay this to Miss F. that afternoon in the overheated Corolla, yet I could tell from her silence that the message wouldn’t translate, at least not at that moment. The expectations were too high and the crash too big. She was living in the tiny realm of an eight year old where losing at the cheer game equaled a piece of her world ending.
She wasn’t ready to hear the life lesson, and as I drove, I realized that it was not my job to rescue her from her pain.
It was my job to allow her to feel it.
I needed to let her be sad.
So that in time, she could let it go.
My heart ached, as I realized this would be the first “big disappointment” for Miss F. of many. There would be break ups and college rejections and possibly the loss of her first “real job.” There would be unexpected betrayals and goodbyes and poorly executed plans. There would be misfires, misguided attempts, and downright failures.
A half hour went by as we both sat, motionless, in the car in outside of the hotel. Miss F. in the back seat, and I in the front, silently viewing the highlight reel of her future, with all of its joys and letdowns.
“Mommy, I’m ready to go to the pool now,” she said, breaking the stillness.
“Okay, then, let’s go,” I said, as she gathered her things, tucking away her mylar pom-poms into a duffle with one firm, final zip, opening the door to a balmy Florida afternoon.
Ten minutes later, she was among the throng of laughing girls, splashing around the hotel pool, diving for pennies, and doing somersaults though water. I sat on a deck chair and watched her, as she propelled her tiny body through the water lithely, immune to the current against her.
It was a beautiful day for a swim.
I’m Ilene, the creator of The Fierce Diva Gide To Life, as well as a yoga teacher, freelance writer, mother of 3, believer in possibilities, and highly flawed individual.
My blog is a place where I discuss my passions, which range from meditation, to my foster dogs, and my rather eclectic yoga playlist. It’s a place where I rant about the evils of processed sugar, my insecurities as a mother, and the strife of navigating a New Jersey wholesale club store on a Saturday afternoon. It is a place where I visit and revisit the topic of happiness again and again, because ultimately, it is what we are all seeking.
I love to talk, I love to learn, I would certainly love for us to get to know each other better.
You can find me at: