She's that wrapped box, beautiful vivid paper on the outside. And just when you get it unwrapped and opened, you find another one, just as skillfully and beautifully wrapped, perfectly placed to fit down inside. The older she gets, the more pieces of her I discover. It's like watching one of those time sped transformations on TV where your eyes get to catch every little change and bit of growth in a project right before your eyes. That's my Madalyn.
She's complex. And that's the part of her that I totally get. She's this wide open, vivacious girl UNTIL... until she has a crowd. One would think within her comfort zones that she seeks a crowd, but that's not the case at all. She likes comfort, small circles, a few eyes. She doesn't feel the need to steal the show ~ she'd rather BE the show within her little life. That, my friends, she gets from her mother. And that was something I have only recently discovered.
This year, she's a cheerleader for our local PeeWee football. Practice began this week with a five day cheer "camp" at the high school. All the high school cheerleaders ~ freshman, JV, and varsity squads ~ taught the girls two chants, two cheers, and a dance. Madalyn had a ball, especially considering we knew one of the cheerleaders helping her group. She came home each night all abuzz. But Friday loomed... Showcase Night for parents and family to come and see what the girls had learned all week.
"But I wanna skip it... I'm too tired."
"Madalyn... this is part of being a cheerleader. You are a part of a team now..."
"I don't wanna go back to that place..."
"You'll do fine. We are NOT skipping it."
"I just don't wanna do it in front of the moms and dads."
"Then how do you think you're gonna be a cheerleader, Madalyn? That's what you do ~ you cheer. In front of people."
"But my tummy hurts."
"Oh, so now your tummy hurts. You're tired, tummy hurts, and you don't wanna go back to that place. And you are NOT skipping it."
She was terrified. Absolutely anxiety ridden about cheering in front of people. She pulled out every stop in her arsenal, and I had a comeback for each one. I explained it was perfectly normal to be a little nervous, but that I was certain she would do just fine. One of her sponsors had just told me the night before that she was doing really well and knew all the cheers. But there was no rationalizing with the looming nervousness brewing in her blood, and I finally ended it with, "You will get out there and do it, and once you're done, you will be so proud of yourself. I promise."
When her group took center of the gym floor, my heart just ached for her. She was on the back row on the very end, and her big brown eyes were all I could see on her face as she stood playing with her fingers. That's what she does when she's nervous... fidgets with her fingers. When she's at home, she still reaches for her blankie, a soft cotton receiving blanket she got when she was born. She runs her fingers along the edge until she finds the good spot, and then her heart settles a bit. Why a certain spot rubbing against her tiny little fingers brings her peace, I will never understand. But it does. When the blanket is absent, she fiddles with her fingers searching that same sense of contentment that the soft tee shirt fabric brings her. I can't say if she ever found it last night; the first cheer was called, and she did all the motions. In fact, she did pretty good, I would say, especially considering she made every excuse her little brain could think of to get out of going.
I hope she learns that if she faces these anxieties head on, it will make her stronger. It's something I struggled with as a child and on into adulthood. It's paralyzing at times. And that is the absolute last feeling I ever want either one of my kids to feel is paralyzed. By anything.
By the way... I totally have a cheerleader in my house now. Go Warriors!