This Is How It Happens

My wife and I signed away three nights of our summer weeks–four nights come fall–in a single stroke the other day, and as we did so I could only think, “This is how it happens.” We surrendered all of this time to a competitive cheerleading squad our daughter wants to join. Sitting in the makeshift office of this operation on her first day of practice, signing waivers and writing a check, it felt like we were buying a car, one much more expensive and with a lot more features and accessories than we came in looking for.

We knew there were practices two nights a week. That’s no different from what she has now, and we had all three been clear that the new commitment does not supplement the current one. It replaces it. But then we learned, once Daughter was already stretching in formation with her new teammates, that there is a third required weekly session for individual practice. There are mandatory choreography sessions. There are camps and competitions.

Attendance at all of these dates is serious business, too. Absences are limited and require doctor’s notes.

This is how it happens, right? This is how kids schedules go from full to too full? Not by parents plotting around the dinner table, but in moments of decision they didn’t see coming, when a commitment is called for in full view of the kid, whose eagerness to be on the team or in the play or in the band means there’s no way you’re saying “no.”

This is our life now. On Monday we had a kid who did gymnastics twice a week and competed twice a year. By the end of the next day we had a cheerleader who will workout four nights a week to prepare for a dozen high-stakes competitions, one of them, potentially, in Florida.


Early returns are great. She’s having the time of her life and the coaches all seem really positive. She’s getting individual instruction to a degree she’s never experienced, so that skills she’s been working on for months have practically developed themselves in just two days. She’s part of a team, and that feels good.

But man am I wary.

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