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Giant White Cheer Bow Free to a Good Home

posted Thursday August 31st, 2017



Does anyone need a giant white cheer bow?

This morning Sophie was ready early, waiting by the back door, yelling at me to hurry up so she could get to school and see if she made the freshman cheer line.

“Now remember, you might not make it,” I said as we climbed in the car. “How do you feel about your chances?”

“I know,” she said. “Good.”

I’ll be honest: Even though I warned her all along that she might not make it, this morning as we drove to school, Sophie and I both thought it was a sure thing. Last night Sophie’s nanny (who had been at most of the practices and the try-out) dropped her off and announced that Sophie had nailed all the cheers, that she smiled and that she was one of the loudest.

“All the judges seemed to really like her,” she told me. And with that, I let down my guard, the first thing they teach you not to do at that How-to-be-a-Parent School that doesn’t exist.

I didn’t worry about Sophie’s extra questions during try-outs, or the time she’d made herself the leader at practice, or the fact that she told the coaches it was not appropriate to make the girls run in 110 degree heat. Or that no matter how hard she tries, and no matter how well she learns any kind of dance or cheer routine, she’s always a beat behind.

I knew she was going to make it.

I kissed Sophie goodbye. “Text me a selfie if you make it, okay?” I asked. “I want to see your face!”

She nodded, grinning.

I dropped her with her aide and Sophie rushed off to the activities office. I drove away, already composing a blog post in my head, ready to accept all those virtual high fives on social media.

I still had mixed feelings about cheer — and no desire to attend a football game — but after a few glimpses of how well Sophie interacted with the other girls, how well (aside from not wanting to run, and she was not alone there, and the part where she made herself the leader) she followed directions and learned — and performed — the routines, I was thinking that she had a real chance, and thinking about what an important piece of her development this could be. Of how she might actually make a real friend this year. Of how this school would truly be practicing inclusion, like the district’s special ed director had assured me they would when we spoke last year.

To be fair, that man never guaranteed that Sophie would make cheer. And I would never, ever expect that. But now I need to call myself on my own shit because maybe, this morning, I was expecting it.

A few minutes later, Sophie texted me a selfie. In it, she’s crying. Below it, she wrote  “Nope.”

Oh fuck.

Sophie is okay. And if not, she will be soon. She has drama, ballet, jazz, and swimming after school. She’s in dance and choir at school. She wants to sign up for the Spanish Club.

She can still be in Special Olympics cheerleading.

I will be okay, too. I have to be, right? I’m the one who assured the cheer coach last week that all we wanted for Sophie was a fair shake, a chance to try out. That we’d understand either way.

And now I have to understand.

I’m itching to email the coach and ask how close Sophie got, what my kid did wrong, what she can do better in the future, and — while I’m at it – why on earth they wouldn’t include a kid with so much energy and enthusiasm , who tries so hard, who works twice as hard as anyone else, who knew all the cheers and smiled and wore the giant bow. Why they didn’t include the kid with Down syndrome when all I see on social media are cheerleaders with Down syndrome.

I want to ask everyone at that school just what inclusion is supposed to look like, both in and out of the classroom.

Instead, I’m going to try to say nothing. That is not my strong suit. But we’ve only been at this school for a hot minute, and I need to give this some time, gather some context.

And look, I fully realize that I’m completely biased here. (And possibly slightly unhinged.)

Sophie will be okay.

And if I’m not, that’s okay, too. In fact, it’s probably better. Because it’s my job to ask the hard questions — even if for now I’m only asking myself.


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Tags: Filed under: Down syndrome by Amysilverman

20 Responses to “Giant White Cheer Bow Free to a Good Home”

  1. Amy and Sophie, I’m sending you both warm hugs. You are brave and strong!

  2. Hugs to all! I am so proud of Sophie for working so hard! And you, Mama, for letting her!

  3. Aw, man. I was hoping for better news. Still, way to go, Sophie! Your passion and hard work are such an inspiration to me.

  4. I would send them the bill for the bow and sneakers! Or at least write a strongly worded email about the stupidity of needing to buy those just for tryouts!

    It’s so hard not to contact people who are so quick to reject when we know they’re making a big fat mistake.

  5. Hugs to all.
    Sad, but I get ya.

  6. Just keep telling yourself that you will be okay…I hate this…trying to stay cool when you want to rip their heads off! You have to use Jedi mind tricks on them. Make them your friends. So, yes say nothing until they love you. The problem is not the school its our world and how they see our kids with Down Syndrome as not the same. This is one of those moments that your heart aches, but never show it. Give a big smile, tell Sophie that she is way to cool and busy for that team and lots of ice cream is necessary or cake!

  7. No matter when our kids hurt we hurt and HS is such heartbreak, thank goodness for Sophie’s busy schedule and contagious enthusiasm.
    I like that you are slightly unhinged, now go celebrate how hard you all worked, you all deserve that!!!

  8. I thought she was a shoe-in for cheer, too. But you are right. She will be okay, and so will you. Hugs to you both.

  9. This is heartbreaking, I wish schools and coaches would see the potential all child have no what their “differences”. But its not just the school and coach its the way our whole society view individuals who are consider to be “different”.

    When I was in high school, I had a fellow peer on my team named Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn wanted all things every girl in high school wants, one of them being on the cheer team. Although Kaitlyn had Down Syndrome that never stopped her from being on our team. She not only made our team closer but she opened our eyes to inclusion. Kaitlyn inspired me to become a Special Education teacher. Because of her I have become that person I was supposed to be. Kaitlyn taught me that no matter what, she was going to cheer and do anything she set her mind to. I wish the school and coach would have thought of the impact your daughter would have had on the team.

  10. My heart is aching for both of you!! I was so hoping she made it!! Hugs!! Great big hugs to you both xoxo

  11. so much truth. beautifully said. the dances we do in this life.

  12. Why even have try out thats so silly – also why even limit the number of cheerleaders – if its a matter of logistics they can get innovative and have children also sit with the families and teach them all the same cheers – so weird

  13. There will be that day she makes it – I’d happily put money on that one. . . . right now she’s learning that painful OTHER awful lesson a host of other girls are having to learn . her fabulous self will be there and change the world. She’s a ball of precious energy and we adore her.

  14. Damn. I’m sorry. I had been wondering if she’d make it. Was hoping she would. Don’t sit on your mouth. Ask the school all those questions above. Xo

  15. Good to sophie for giving her all! Something that is so hard for any parent, but it will be a good life lesson for her…everyone has to fail eventually. Even kids with disabilities. It’s hard to feel like another thing is being taken away from a normal adolescence, but learning to put yourself out there- even with risk of failure- is important for everyone.

  16. drove into work today past the rhythmic sounds and adorable sights of marching band and flagline. there is more than one way to skin the tricky cat that is high school. big kickdrum ❤️❤️❤️ to y’all.

  17. I feel heartbroken for her. Maybe the person in charge could tell her/you what to work on for next season? Would that be inspiring to her–or would it get her hopes up too high?!

  18. I’m with you, Amy. I thought for sure they would pick her. She has the attitude and school spirit that the school campus would fall in love with. I think one of the things that has happened with some schools, is that cheer leading has changed over the years into being more about competitions. I recall when my oldest daughter was in high school (the same district Sophie attends) that she told me that the girls on the cheer team were all kids who were serious gymnasts and dancers, and that it wasn’t about school spirit so much as it was winning prizes at cheer leading competitions. What strikes me odd, is that you would think that the coach would be able to see some real benefits at competitions by including Sophie. I don’t get it. Just my two cents.

  19. You know I think this is bullshit. I’m about to make a phone call and let McClintock know that Sophie should have made it for only for herself–but actually, even more for them. Even more for them. What a missed opportunity. What a massive failing. I am furious. Water balloon furious.

  20. I’m sorry. Yes. It sucks. I, too, have wanted to make that phone call and ask WHY? I didn’t. For better or worse. Doesn’t make it easier but time does take away some pain. My 11 year old made the All star baseball team and worked so hard. He played the minimum play time 1 at bat and 2 innings in left field. It was so hard. The last game, the last at bat, he was the ONLY kid to put the team on the scoreboard. I was so proud of him and wanted to say a not nice thing to the coach. I didn’t. As I type this it still puts tears in my eyes.
    Thanks for sharing your story. She’s adorable

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