I’ve been called the “black sheep” in my family  so many times; I don’t even know where to begin.

Every woman in my family works in the public schools system, but I refused to go to school to be a teacher.

My entire family lives within a 10 mile radius from the epicenter of Monroe, North Carolina… I live 12 hours away in Wappingers Falls, New York.

I hate country music, but my family was raised on bluegrass.

I’m a progressive thinker even though my family is a bit old fashioned.

But, the one thing that really made me realize I was the black sheep early on in life is my love of sports, not to mention my sheer hatred for cheerleading.

 One night before I shipped off to New York, my parents and I were watching my old baby videos.  There was a video taken of everyone hanging out in the waiting room of the hospital on the day I was born. Everyone was joking around saying “If Nelson (my dad) comes out and says it’s a girl, it’ll be a boy.” My dad is the ultimate jokester.

Minutes later, my dad bursts through the doors announcing the birth of their new baby girl. My grandma shouted, “well, I guess we’ll have a cheerleader instead of a baseball player.” To which my dad replied, “we’ll see about that.” **It’s important to note that my dad was the local high school’s baseball coach, he actually had to leave a game early to come to the hospital for my birth, he was in his uniform during my delivery. **

Growing up, I didn’t have much of a choice as to what extracurricular activities I participated in. My mom did the only thing she knew to do with little girls and signed me up for cheerleading as soon as I was old enough to walk.

At one particularly painful cheerleading practice, I was punished for watching the football game when I was supposed to be cheering (hey, I was standing on the sidelines and got caught up in the moment).  I don’t know what possessed me to talk back to my coach, but I said to her “Well maybe I’d rather be playing a sport than being a glorified fan.”  She stood there agape. “It’s not like cheerleaders ever won a game for a team before, we’re just supposed to stand there and look pretty.”

I went home that night and cried in my pillow afraid that I had gotten myself kicked off the team.  I just knew that my family would be so ashamed of me. After about an hour of sobbing, I realized… so what if she kicks me off the team, I don’t like cheering anyway!

I told my dad that I wanted to quit cheerleading and take up organized softball and basketball. He was elated. My mom wasn’t so happy, although she warmed up to the idea after she saw my enthusiasm.

The next day I made the announcement to my mom’s side of the family, cue the dirty looks and astonished faces.  After some heavy guilt trips, I decided I needed to do what made me happy.

My first season as a softball player was great, my dad was one of the coaches and my BFF (laura)’s dad was the other coach. I was a natural pitcher and I don’t mind bragging on how awesome I was. I went on to play softball and basketball in high school. During my sophomore year, I began getting the attention of the local papers and colleges. When I was a senior, the scholarship offers started to roll in.

I think I made the right choice.

The point though, is what do you do when your child doesn’t want to participate in the extracurricular activity that you’d like them to participate in?

–          Accept it. If you were a budding young artist, but your child wants to play football, accept it. Plain and simple.  Your child isn’t trying to defy you; they just want something to call their own. You should be happy that you raised a child feels comfortable enough to go outside of their comfort zone and try new things. AND FOR GOODNESS SAKES, DON’T MAKE YOUR CHILD FEEL LIKE A BLACK SHEEP!

–          Lay off the guilt trips! Just because you were a star athlete doesn’t mean your child has to be.  Never make your child feel guilty for wanting to try new things.

–          Research. If your child wants to play baseball and you’re not sure what the difference between a sac fly and a home run is… we have a problem. Go to your local library and check out some books on the activity your child wants to participate in, that way you’ll be able to help your child improve their skills. Not to mention, no child wants their parents screaming RUN on a foul ball.

–          Give encouragement. Every child wants the approval of their parents. Once your child begins a new activity, encourage them to do the best they can and offer to help them practice their new skills.