My poor, innocent offspring. They don’t know they’re being studied.
My children are the pioneering subjects of an ever-so-slightly off-the-wall social experiment, courtesy of an adoring mother.
Like most kids, they’ve got A Mama On A Mission: I’m bound and determined to raise the happiest, healthiest, kindest, strongest, most brave, curious & well-adjusted kids this world has ever seen.
Sound familiar? If you’re a parent, you’re probably on the same quest.
In our house (thanks in no small part to the loving example set by my own parents), the major check-boxes take care of themselves: Tell them they’re special and important. Be there. Make sure they feel loved. Keep them as safe as any parent can. Etc, etc, etc.
But I also have a *minor* preoccupation with my children’s inner monologues.
In a perfect world, not only do people around them tell them they’re wonderful – they tell themselves they’re wonderful.
Enter: Operation Secret Cheerleaders.
Wanna play? Here are the rules:
Step 1: When in public, keep an eye out for people making strides towards personal wellness. Whether it’s the 80-something man slowly shuffling around the track, the heavyset girl grimacing and sweating bullets as she jogs, or the super-athlete busting out a marathon like it’s no big thing. Find them, and point them out.
Step 2: Cheer for them. Out loud.
“Go, girl! Go, dude! HEALTHY AND STRONG! WOOHOO! YAY, YOU!”
You might look, sound & feel like a psychopath.
Do it anyway.
A stranger running along the side of the road? A stranger biking to work? A whole team of strangers on a field practicing with a team?
Cheer out loud.
The idea is not for the strangers to actually hear it. (Though I hope they smile if they do!)
The idea is for the children to hear it. All the way down to the darkest corners of their young, developing minds.
The goal is the development of a world-view that conceptualizes strangers as potential cheerleaders, rather than potential Mean Girls.
I developed Operation Secret Cheerleaders as a Happy Exhaustion response to my own toxic, Pre-Happy Exhaustion inner monologue. That inner monologue had a few tracks in heavy rotation: Self Flagellation & I’m Not Good Enough.
I have a fully pathological habit of taking it for granted that you’re better at (insert just about anything here) than I am.
That habit reads judgment in the eyes of strangers, assuming they are silently, persistently tearing me down.
That assumption kept me on the couch. My insecurities about my physical condition held me back.
“I like the idea of running, but if I go running people will see me. People will judge me.“
I had to actively create a mental space where I could allow myself to be a beginner.
I spent decades believing that I should never be a beginner in public. I never went out for sports, because I was sure that everyone else was a superstar and I would be the only unskilled player.
Now I know better. The true beginner is the truest rockstar!
I still have to bust my ass every day to maintain Happy Exhaustion, but the physical effort of today’s got NOTHING on the physical *and psychological* effort that was required to get going in the first place.
To turn it all around, I had to first conquer my fear of the judgment of others.
It was hard work. It was not fun times.
I do NOT want that for my little ones.
Operation Secret Cheerleaders is this mama’s attempt to throw up a few road blocks and detour signs. I will happily cheer for strangers like a maniac if there’s a chance I could steer my kids’ brains away from toxic assumptions.
Whether you have kids or not, I invite you to join Operation Secret Cheerleaders.
And the next time you’re prioritizing your health – out in the world, where strangers may gaze – I hope you will think of me and my super-sexy minivan, driving by with my kids, shrieking about how cool you are.
At the top of our lungs.