When I tell people that I coach high school JV cheerleading, I usually get the response, “You’re a SAINT! I could NEVER be around that many teenage girls and keep my sanity!” or something along those lines. Most people definitely pity me, or tell me how awful high-schoolers are, even if they don’t have kids that age yet. Funny huh? 😉
I’m quite quick to tell them that the young ladies I’ve met and coached, are some of the nicest, most polite, respectful, hard-working, funny, and fun people I’ve ever met. It’s actually been my honor to be in THEIR lives. I also tell people if you’re looking for a self-esteem boost, get around 15 teenage girls, as they tell you all the time how great you are and how much they looooooooooooove you (heart emojis are everywhere)!!! 😉
But seriously, I tell them (and their guardians) all.of.the.time how they have given me hope that my minis will be just fine at that age. I ask their guardians often, “what did you do to keep them so sweet? I don’t want to screw mine up because they’re so great now!” Many of them simply say, “she is just a good egg,” “she’s always been this way,” “stay firm and have boundaries, but lead with love,” “I trust her and she trusts me,” and so on and so on…
One of these girls, who was on the Varsity and competition squads, is named Bailey. And not only did she cheer for the school, but she also babysat my minis a few times. I was happy for every moment I (and they) got to spend with her because she is delightful. She never seemed too busy to listen to my old a$s talk about my gymnastics glory days, even though she was probably like, ‘okay Coach Mandie…I get it!’ She would make time to spot Lilly on her tumbling skills, even though she certainly didn’t have to. I never saw her so much as roll an eye at anyone…adults, coaches or peers, during a practice/game/competition/warmup…no matter how much stress she was under.
So it’s no surprise to me when her mom posted this on Facebook the other day. By the end of it, I was SOBBING bit fat tears. Certainly, part of it was because I pictured myself in her shoes, a mother of two daughters. Kids that are so great, that I almost ALWAYS want to be around them. Another part of it was putting myself in Bailey’s shoes, and thinking back to when I was a female headed off to college, and the scary/exciting things that it brought up in my memory.
But this list of advice is spot on, and in my humble opinion, a MUST READ, and a must share. Our graduating girls (and guys even) need to read this. And parents, you do too! Naivety doesn’t work, I promise. Prepare them for the REAL world, as that’s exactly what they’re entering.
So here ya go! In Tracy Barnett’s words…
You see, I have this amazing person in my life who will be leaving me soon and I’m supposed to be all chipper and cheery and all “life awaits you” about it. “She will become such a brat that you will be glad to send her off to college” they said. “This is the natural course of events and this is part of your job” they say. “She’s ready” they say. Well….she’s not a brat, I don’t want this particular job to end, and I’m not ready. I am sooooo not ready. And I’m being a big fat baby about it. So I am going to write down my feelings, a stream of conscious thoughts and awkward motherly advice in an attempt to work through the worst of it, so that I truly don’t eff up this most amazing, exciting rite of passage for the best person that I know. Because, in fact, my kid is a way better person than I am, and I am going to miss having her around to aspire to. She really is just that nice, kind, honest, true to her convictions and a good influence on me. So this note to her is part unsolicited advice, part apology and part catharsis solely for my benefit, and likely will be in no logical order.
- Learn to like beer. Seriously. Stay away from liquor. And shots. NEVER do shots, I don’t care who is chanting your name over and over. You, and your conscience, will thank me later. That one bit of advice, alone, will save you from much humiliation and self-flagellation. You’re a tiny girl; you won’t need a lot of alcohol to alter your judgment and make really crappy decisions (especially when it comes to boys, see #3) – I’d like to ask you not to drink at all but I’m not totally naive. So drink beer. My hope is that it will make you feel super full and miserable before you can actually drink enough to get sloppy. Don’t get sloppy – don’t be that girl.
- Limit the borrowing of expensive clothes from your roommate. It will be oh so tempting. But…you will spill something, rip something, lose something and it will ruin your friendship and it will piss off her mom. The reverse holds true as well.
- Trust your gut and be true to you. Your body is YOUR body and you alone get to decide your boundaries. And sometimes, boys…well, they might fib to sway you. They just do. Not all boys, and certainly not always, but booze-infused boys will pretty much say whatever they think you might want to hear to achieve an end game (see #1, impaired judgement is not limited to girls). Now, here is where I insert a huge blanket apology to my friends who have boys. Your sons are not whom I’m speaking of, but someone out there is raising that arrogant, entitled kid that thinks he can do whatever he wants with whomever he wants – that’s who I’m worried about. And I hope this doesn’t this offend anyone but if it does, then please include the statistics on girls date raping boys on college campuses in your admonishment of me. I’m not a total alarmist on this topic, but I would be lying if I didn’t have some tinge of hesitation about sending my daughter into the arena.
- Remember the long game. You are at college to lay a foundation for your future, as an adult. Adulting sucks, in general. But it will suck more if you squander your opportunity to prepare yourself as best you can for the competitive landscape that awaits you upon graduation. I’m all for the work hard/play hard approach to life. Hell, I live it! Gleefully, in fact. But it’s all about the mix. Keep in mind that whichever proportionality you choose, it affects your options in 4 years. I truly feel bad for your generation. Yeah, you’ve got technology by the tail, and yes you are far academically superior to my generation when we were your age, but man are there a lot of you! There is just a much greater percentage of really super smart kids out there today. So if you think the college acceptance process was a discerning bitch, just wait until you and all your peeps are out their vying for a real J.O.B. The competition will be fierce so prepare yourself accordingly.
- Be smart on social media. (One of) my proudest moments, as your mom, was recently when a mother of a freshman approached me at your cheer banquet and said “You don’t know me, but I’m (your new favorite person because I’m about to shower you with mommy accolades) and I just want you to know that I, and the other moms, stalk your daughter’s Instagram and Facebook page and hold them up as examples to illustrate to our daughters that this is who they want to emulate.” That, right there, sums up social media and its vast butterfly effect. Oh if only I followed my own advice…but this isn’t about me. Anyway, your take away: Don’t put stupid crap on your social media. People everywhere are judging you (and honestly, you don’t want Nanny calling you too…it’s annoying and she’s usually right about whatever complaint she might have about your posts).
- Fake it til you make it. Be confident in yourself, your abilities and your decisions! This is life advice. If you aren’t confident, then figure out how to exude it. It’s a differentiator on almost all playing fields: social, academic and professional. Now, this is not permission to be arrogant. That is also a differentiator of a different sort, which – as a female, will take on the label of “bitch.” That is not what we are going for here. What I am proponing is being confident enough without breaching the tipping point. It’s a delicate balance. Find it.
- Leave high school and its drama behind. You don’t want to peak in high school so strive to learn from the lessons that surviving high school teaches you. College is where you come in to your own, better understand the value of true and sincere friendships and become a better version of a friend to others. Always keep in mind to look for those who may be “eating alone” – be friendly and remember how it feels to be left out and don’t be a leaver outer.
- So let’s talk about this YOLO approach to life….I’m 50, so a “you only live once” mantra resonates with me much greater now than when I was your age. But you see, if I had applied that philosophy to my decisions at your age, I probably wouldn’t have even made it to 50. Your decisions and actions have consequences. There is life after that Instagram post or Snapchat story where you thought “YOLO, I’ll (fill in the blank with some stupid decision). As you continue to get older, the stakes get higher. So, YOLO has a place…but shouldn’t be a lifestyle.
- Try to let me bother you without seeming like I’m bothering you. Meaning: please bear with me and try to put up with me as we walk through this transition together. I will, I have no doubt, be as annoying from 167 miles away as I was (and am) within the same house. Obviously, you can ignore my calls and I haven’t always modeled the best behavior for you on that front (sorry Mom….) but be patient with me. I apologize, in advance, for how much I am going to miss you. 😊
- Know that you are supported and loved unconditionally and you can always come home, in the emotional sense. College will bring forth challenges that will seem overwhelming and you may sometimes feel that things are getting the best of you. Always know that we are here for you to guide and support you even if we aren’t physically there. No doubt you will have friends to turn to for much of your emotional needs, but for those things that just seem SO.BIG. know that you can “come home”. We will always be here.
Now go carpe some freakin’ diem!
ARE YOU CRYING?!!!
But seriously, HOW GOOD IS THAT?!!! Thank you so much Tracy, for putting this into words! I hope that it is this hard when it’s time for my minis to head off to college (or wherever life takes them after high school). I have a feeling if I’m already hysterical, it will be. Please share if you thought this was great advice…knowledge is power for our kids. And as my friend G always says, “we belong to each other,” and “there’s no such thing as other peoples’ kids.” They’re all our kids you guys. Let’s take care of them. And pretty please, start talking kindly about teenagers…there are some really good ones out there…I promise!
Happy graduation loves!
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