Whose pep rally is it, anyway?

Excuse me for wondering, but weren’t high school pep rallies originally designed for the students and staff of a school to “rally” behind their sports teams and get them fired up to win? Later they were expanded to include pep rallies for everything from final exams to “just say no to drugs”—but, back in the day, I don’t ever remember the audience expanding to include parents.  I mean, why would kids want their parents at school, anyway? Don’t parents have a lot of other things to do during the day? Around here, apparently not.  Because as soon as my teen became a sophomore and a full-fledged member of the high school drill team, I discovered that not only did parents attend pep rallies, there was a whole section of the gym reserved just for them.  And it wasn’t just a bunch of stay-at-home moms filling the stands.  Working moms, too.  And dads–  lots of them.  From 9-10 in the morning.  And because so many parents attend, your kid doesn’t understand if you don’t…

“Mom, you’re going, right?” Allison said last fall.   

“Parents attend pep rallies?” I asked, surprised. 

“Yes, everyone goes! You’ve got to see one, they’re amazing!!  You’ve never seen anything like this,” she informed me.  So I went to a few, and I enjoyed them, because the drill team often debuts new routines at pep rallies and I like to see my daughter dance.  And I’m sure that’s why a lot of parents attend—they want to see their child play in the band, sing, act, dance, pump their fists in the air and run around in a gorilla costume…  But— I just don’t get it all completely.  I could see having one special pep rally where parents and the entire community are invited to attend—like the Homecoming Pep Rally.  But do we parents really need to add one more “must do” every other week to our already busy schedules?

Yesterday was the “Senior Pass Down” pep rally, held every spring to honor the graduating seniors who are “passing the torch” to the juniors on their teams, clubs, etc.  Allison wanted me to attend, but I told her I really didn’t think it was a good idea, especially since I would see her perform the exact same routine many times at the drill team show in two weeks, and I had a ton of things to do. Plus, I don’t have a senior, and I don’t know many seniors, either.  “But we’re doing our jump splits on a gym floor for the first time,” she informed me. (Gee, stop the presses and prepare a banner headline.) “And the Pass Down is so cool and so sad,” she said. 

“Yes, I can understand it would be, for you,” I said.  “It’s your school.”

I love my child as much as the next person loves theirs, but I also don’t think I need to watch her (and her school’s) every move in order to show that love…and I don’t think kids should be brought up to expect us to.  It’s unhealthy to be a helicopter parent and unhealthy to set up the dynamic where you do whatever your kid asks you to do.  I felt sorry for the mom I overheard last week lamenting the fact that after she dropped her daughter off at team practice at 7:00 a.m. on Pass Down pep rally day, she was then going to “have to” wait for two hours for the rally to start, since she didn’t work close by.  Yet her child, like mine, wasn’t an upper classman.  Would the child’s self esteem have been damaged that badly if Mommy hadn’t been there?  I don’t think so. 

Haven’t we all heard by now, from everyone from Dr. Ruth to Dr. Phil, that when parents set up their families to where they revolve totally around their children that they lose in the long run? Their kids act like entitled royalty and have a hard time coping in real-world jobs.  Many marriages suffer when a family’s schedule is so jam-packed with kid stuff that the parents never make time for themselves, to take weekend trips alone together or even just go to a movie.  And helicopter parents have a much harder time handling empty nest syndrome once their youngest child graduates.    

I come from parents who knew how to “get a life”, who didn’t worry if their child spent all day playing outside in the neighborhood and who went out with a group of friends every Friday night.  Who never felt the need to help with homework or be in constant communication with their child’s teachers, or attend every sports practice or music event.  But who were always there when it really mattered—a shoulder to cry on for the big break-ups, a smiling face in the audience for the big shows.  And I think most parents at the time were like that– after all, they were called the Greatest Generation.  But with helicopter parents setting the standards these days, what are the rest of us supposed to do?  Look like freaks in our kids’ eyes?

I just keep on doing what I do, and hope that one day they’ll understand.   And besides, we never completely “miss” an event nowadays anyway– thanks to the hundreds of photos and video that are shared online…


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