Daughter left cheer practice injured by something, and she wasn’t telling me what. Her manner was short and clipped. Inquiries as to her well-being were all met with, “Uh huh.” The whole ride home she said nothing, and I stopped trying to make her.

Climbing the stairs to our apartment I could hear her sniffling and taking deep breaths. I knew she would head straight for her mother as soon as we were through the door, and of course she did. I could listen to the tearful account from the hallway, but, as with most of her displays of emotion, mom was the sole authorized confessor. I was not welcome.

It’s all to do with competition and the awareness that some of your teammates are better than you and thus get more attention from coaches and more first team reps. As a seasoned benchwarmer from my Little League days, I get this. It hurts, and the way an 11 year-old’s mind deals with it is as grievance: it’s not fair.

I still remember the name of the kid who took my rightful spot on the 11 year-old All Star team: Jaime Masters. For 32 years his name and face have been associated in my mind with injustice. That’s done nothing for me.

Daughter will grow through this, and I hope I will too. She went to bed still in tears and we let her. It feels important that we be her allies and supporters, but not her co-conspirators. It feels important that we accompany her through encounters with her own limits, encouraging her to do her best for the sake of it, and not to win a coach’s nod or a roster spot.

That will be as hard for us as it is for her.

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