I’ll never forget the scene. My youngest daughter Megan was a winner, a complete rock star. She and her cheerleader team, the Mountain View Marauders, had just won the nationals in DisneyWorld, Orlando, Florida. “We are the champions my friends” blasted on a loudspeaker, as those 16 girls in the 8 to 11 year-old division laughed and cried together, hugging each other. The happiness on my daughter’s face, the pride and confidence made me happy. I admit I didn’t know much about cheerleading. I wasn’t into that, but ever since Megan was small, she loved cheerleading, dance and gymnastic. She was the “physical” queen. This was HER passion, her love. I had no idea how much work and energy went into cheerleading — dancing skills and gymnastics skills. The whole bit. The girls did not just jump and down and cheer for the football players. Yes, they did that for Pop Warner — the football players in their age group pretty much. But that was just a small part of who they were.
Every time the team won and Megan held that giant trophy, my heart bursted with pride for her, and for her awesome team because those girls had to learn to work together in sync. While other parents watched their kids sing or play musical instruments or even played sports, I held my breath as Megan and three others threw another girl up in the year and caught her seamlessly. How the heck did they do it? But they did. They were amazing and wonderful and I wanted to sprinkle fairy dust on my daughter so that she was always happy and confident like this.
At age 14, Megan made Varsity Cheer for high school. Hardly any freshmen made Varsity Cheer, but Megan did. She was so awesome. But little did I know that while she was still in cheer, a shadow fell over her beautiful life, and she tried drugs. It was a horrible revelation and I was absolutely terrified. She admitted it to me, and I was grateful. I had no idea how bad it really was. I had to get her out of her current situation and sent her up to my long-time friend Heidi’s place in Tacoma, Washington so we could figure out what to do. Removing her from the environment was the first thing. Heidi was a lot stricter than me too. We found a rehab facility for teens up in Washington that would partially take insurance though I’d still have to pay. I worked it out somehow, some way. I missed my girl horribly every single day when she was gone. When she went into the rehab, I was barely able to communicate with her at all.
I had to take a whole week off work to attend “Family Week” and to speak with counselors about Megan’s specific situation. That was no picnic at all. I had to attend these classes with our parents of kids going through a similar thing. I cried along with some because we all shared one thing. We loved our kids and wanted what was best for them. One mom cried and said she let her son smoke pot because he also suffered from an eating disorder and pot gave him an appetite. Another mentioned heroin, and I found out my daughter had tried ecstasy and meth. My heart broke into a million pieces because I love her so much.
I literally got yelled at in a one-on-one session with one of the counselors. Well, it felt that way to me. She said she had talked to Megan about her family. Then she said I was an enabler for all of my kids. What? An enabler. I got super defensive then. I wanted to say, how ’bout you try to raise four kids by yourself and work full time. The horrible thing was, that same week while I was there, I was getting collect calls from the Santa Clara County jail. My younger son Jeremy was in jail for a few days for drinking too much and jumping up and down on a car. What the heck? I felt like the whole world had just collapsed on top of me. Here I had all these wonderful aspirations for my kids, just like any other parent. But then I was thinking, oh my gosh, if they can just overcome their own demons and get through all this without ending up in jail…
But things did change. Jeremy got out of jail and Megan eventually came home with a fluffy little dog named Sydney that my friend Heidi “gifted” to us because Sydney and Megan were so attached. Megan would flounder a few times, but end up winning in the end! I’m so proud of her.