Last week I described my hesitation about truly embracing my daughter’s newly found love for cheerleading and their positions of fliers on their team. The big day of their demonstration came and went, unremarkably. Other than a moderate amount of anxiety and “stage fright” because of the large crowd watching the event, the girls performed admirably and came away unscathed. My illusions of bruises and broken bones did not become reality as both girls pretty much followed the direction of their coaches and enjoyed their demonstration. Better yet, good ol’, overprotective dad wasn’t forced to flash the dreaded “dad stink eye” look at some unsuspecting eight-year-old for dropping one of my girls.
As I sat in the filled gymnasium seats I felt a measure of pride, assuredly felt by the many other parents, grandparents, and friends attending the event in hopes of bolstering their own individual joy over watching their loved one’s perform. As the children performed multiple cheer routines, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment for both my girls as they did what cheer athletes do. The excitement of the moment was only overshadowed by my elation over having the opportunity to continue tagging along as these two exceptional little ladies experienced new things while they discovered what would be the norm in their future.
As we traveled homeward, the girls and I shared our thoughts as each girl described what aspects of the evening they enjoyed the most and which for the most part they could have lived without. As I listened, my mind quickly jumped to the fact that throughout our lives, we can often fall into a state of permanent self-preservation. A form of preservation where we worry over every little thing, hesitating to fully live our lives and enjoy the beauty it has to offer. As a parent, preserving our children’s safety can at times become the center of our universe causing us to think the worst and hinder their ability to prosper.
Understanding that there is no greater duty as a father than to protect my children, I must safeguard both myself and my children from simply “thinking the worst” and hence not allowing them to experience life because of my fear of the unknown. What I learned from this entire cheerleading experience with my girls is simply that the reality of our experiences is rarely what we envisioned in our minds. Spreading our wings and trying new things broadens our ability to explore everything this life has to offer and maybe, just maybe our exploration will empower us to greater heights of awareness and adventure. Fear not my friends, the reality of life is our ability to accept risk and embrace the rewards.
Richard J. Stephens lives in Carter County and is the father of three little ladies ranging in age from eight to 29.