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What Went Through My Mind When My Son Said He Wanted To Be A Cheerleader

flickr / Michael Neel

The following was syndicated from Quora for the Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at

As a parent, what expectations did you have for your child that you had to change? Why?

With my son, I was having a boy and expected trucks and cars and toy soldiers and hunting and fishing. Instead, I got a boy who enjoyed dolls, music, dancing, and playing dress up. I never thought of myself as a parent who would force their child into a gender-normal pigeonhole. So when he wanted a baby doll for Christmas, he sure got one. I was appalled that I was a sexist mom, and decided to change that immediately.

And it honestly didn’t occur to me that he might not want a truck. But I rolled with it after being ashamed and embarrassed that I automatically assumed he’d want a truck. When he turned 6, he received an invitation to basketball try-outs. He was in tears and I asked if he wanted to play the sport with his friends. He certainly didn’t want to play basketball. He was crying because when his female friends received tryouts papers they were able to try out for the cheer squad, he wasn’t invited.

He decided that he would ask for to try out for cheer instead but was refused by his gym coach who asked if he wanted to be a boy or a girl today. My son was upset and in tears when I came to get him. When I learned what happened, I was appalled. I didn’t expect that my son would be a victim of sexist bigotry at 6 years old. This was only 4 years ago!

The school had an anti-discrimination policy and anti-bully policies set in place that guaranteed no tolerance. I called the school and asked why my son couldn’t cheer. They said he was a boy and it was an all girls team. I countered about the young lady who almost took the junior varsity football team to state the year before as a kicker. Apparently, she was old enough to understand that this was not typically a sport for ladies. I countered again about how cheer teams and gymnasts and even dancers have co-ed teams at all ages. Well, now they don’t have a boy’s cheer uniform. Finally, I offered to purchase one but that wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the squad who were wearing used uniforms.

I never thought of myself as a parent who would force their child into a gender normal pigeon hole.

No wonder the kid was frustrated. So was I. I circulated a petition amongst the other cheer moms asking if they would be uncomfortable with my son cheering with their girls. Many were encouraging, but some moms confronted me about whether I was concerned about my son being bullied (narrow-minded people). I finally got my stuff in order and presented a good case for the principle of the school. He told me my son would get his permission slip for cheerleading.

That very day my son had his slip. I signed it and included his wellness doctor report and money and measurements for his uniform to be ordered.

My son was in tears the next day because the cut-off date for athletic entries and try-outs was the day before and that school gave him his slip at the end of that day! I went from angry to absolutely feral. I was furious and got on my phone immediately. I asked the principal if he would like a full-on lawsuit. Or maybe I should just go to the school board and question if he is fit for his job. Clearly, I didn’t expect the school to set my son up for defeat. He was discriminated against and degraded and to top it all off they thought they would hush my son up when he all he wanted was a fair try-out.

I didn’t expect my son to feel so defeated. For days he was upset. Finally, the school agreed to make the cheer squad co-ed. It took me almost 3 weeks to change that policy. And I’m sure a lot of people weren’t happy with me but I never expected my son to hug me and tell me “Mom, it’s okay. You did your best and that’s all that matters” (I said the same to him when things didn’t work the way he hoped or when he didn’t do as well as he thought he should. )

The best things that happened in my life were things I didn’t expect, and my son and daughter are 2 of them.

Cherie Wilkerson is a parent who loves to meet new people and expand her horizons. Read more from quora below: