The Competitor

Eliza is a natural born competitor.  Unlike me, who suffers immediate gastrointestinal distress from the mere words, “contest”, “competition”, or “race”, Eliza gets excited and focused. Excited. Even if she admits to being a little nervous, once it’s game on, you would never know.  She steps up to every challenge with the same happy smile and quiet determination.  If I were a true Tiger Mom, (or even Tiger Woods’ dad), I would be all over this action trying to finesse my child into the next, great champion (insert sport here).   Fortunately for Eliza (but unfortunately for the sake of endorsement deals), my competition induced anxiety exists even when I’m not the one competing. which means I’m only good for holding her coat, nervously overspending in the vendor area, and choking out a shaky “Good Luck”, before she departs my company.


Eliza’s cheer season ended with a final competition a couple of weeks ago.  I’d missed the first one due to a conflict in scheduling, but let me assure you, ONE cheer competition is all anyone really needs to endure see in their lifetime.  If I thought one super-peppy, high-octane, mega-talky 11-year old was more than I could handle, imagine trying to endure a 6-hour day inside a stadium filled with them.  And their crazy, super-peppy moms.

I was never a cheerleader.  To begin with, at Eliza’s age I was shy, nerdy and totally into my Charlie’s Angels Barbie Dolls.  I was also super uncoordinated, kind of a tomboy, and not very popular.  Now….flip ALL of that, and you have my eldest daughter.  She is everything I aspired to be as a young girl, and the kind of girl that I envied.  At 11 Eliza is athletic, poised, popular, outgoing and mature beyond her years.  She is also gracious and kind and big-hearted and a hard worker.  If she weren’t my kid, I actually kind of hate her a little bit…

So basically, this kid is out of my league…and this has forced me way out of my comfort zone into zones that include knowing how to wear tasteful eye shadow, French braiding and wearing bling.  I cannot do girl hair to save my life and I have yet to learn how to apply makeup so I don’t look like an airport strip-club dancer, but thankfully Eliza has mastered makeup (jerk) and she has friends with moms who are really good at hair.

See how the clock reads 1:07?  We were supposed to be on the road by 12:45, but since I can’t do the elaborate competition braiding, I had to wait for Eliza’s friend, Jolene’s mom to arrive and save the day.  I have no idea what Eliza is doing with her face, but I’m sure it was something smart-alecky.

When we got to the arena we were informed that no flash photography was allowed (plus, I was way too nervous to attempt taking photos), so this is all I got of the entire day:

That’s Eliza sitting with her “people” pre-competition.  Down there on the competition floor were 7 billion squealing ponytails.  Although the competition itself was very well run, watching consecutive cheer/pom performances for 6 straight hours is something right out of the sadists’ playbook.  Especially when you are wearing this all day:

I reeeeaaaaaly love my kid.

Eliza’s team came it third place in their grouping, which wasn’t enough to make it to state.  I was really surprised that so many of the girls were crying over the loss and I sort of braced myself as I looked for Eliza in the crowd, prepared with my “good effort” speech…but no worries…Eliza surveyed her soggy teammates for a brief moment and then chirped, “Let’s go buy matching bows!” which totally buoyed everyone’s spirit.  It’s hard to keep a good cheerleader down.


This past weekend Eliza participated in her first gymnastics meet.  She’s been practicing the sport for a little less than two years but she has picked up the moves like she’s been doing it forever.  I’m not exactly sure how a tall, gangly kid is able to pretzel her body into all of those flips and kicks and turns, but somehow she does.  Both cheer and gymnastics have been the perfect match for Eliza, who moves as if she is powered by a million car batteries.  Whether she is unloading the dishwasher or just watching TV, she has to be spinning, twirling, kicking and/or pausing for cartwheel breaks the entire time.  Our freshly pained upstairs hallway is marred at eye level by her dirty footprints, left behind by incessant handstand practice.  I guess all that practice has paid off because in both sports, her flips are her hallmark.

As with the cheer competition, the gymnastics meet was jam-packed with bouncy-ball girls and their Olympics-eyed mothers.  I hate to say it, but the prettier and fitter the activity demands a child to be, the more likely it is that the parents are occupying more than their fair share of bleacher space and eating nachos.  Sad, but true.  I think one of the things that makes me most uncomfortable about kid-level competitions is how overbearing some parents are and how micro-involved they get in the competition.  While I struggle to remember to even breathe while Eliza competes, some moms have no problem incessantly screaming for the entire 2-minute floor routine.  Seriously…one mom screamed (and I’m talking “yell as if your child is 100 miles instead of 10 feet away) some variation of “Get it”, “You’ve got this”, “Come on” or “Nail it” followed by her child’s name, every 3 seconds.  I don’t know about you, but if I’m trying to concentrate on trying to nail something, the last thing I want is for someone to be interrupting my focus by screaming “nail it!”

Eliza is by no means a high-level gymnast, and neither of us entertain any illusions of seeing her on a Wheaties box some day.  Next year she says she might want to switch to straight tumbling (which I hope is a TON CHEAPER).  In the meantime, I love that my kid is active and accomplished and that she dedicates herself so fully to whatever it is she chooses to do.  It’s better than the alternative which in my mind involves bad decisions, shady friends and a stint on “Teen Mom”!

In the end, Eliza scored a 4th place for vault, 2nd places in floor and beam, and a 1st on uneven bars, which gave her 1st place all-around.  Just to show you how much I know, I was thinking I’d be happy if she just made it through all of her events, I didn’t even consider that she was actually performing well enough to place.

The awards ceremony was really cute – they had podiums and medals and everything.  So even if we never get to the Olympics, that Sunday (a 2-hour ride away from home, I might add), it was close enough for the both of us.

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