The Olympic Games have been a constant companion in our home for the past week. The TV is on more than usual, and I have found myself watching obscure sport competitions like trampolining as I fold clothes, wash dishes, or play with the kids.
My little ones have been cheering for athletes they never knew existed until this week. My son was cheering for swimmer Ryan Lochte (whom he calls “Lock-cheee”), and my daughter, in between her attempts to do handstands and somersaults, was rooting for gymnast Gabby Douglas. There’s no set bedtime. After dinner, we all gather in the family room to watch the games until our kids ask to be put to bed. My husband and I were collegiate athletes –he played football and I ran track. We love the Olympics and are loving, even more, the fact that our kids are so enthusiastic about it. But in the midst of this, one thing I have gained this time around that I didn’t have in 2008 is the “Olympic Perspective.”
As a parent, I am starting to notice the athletes’ parents more than the athletes themselves. While the athletes compete, the camera frequently pans to their families in the stands. I see moms and dads sitting on the edge of their seats, with bated breath and tense posture. At times they yell, jump, or call out phrases such as “stick it” –like the gymnast Aly Raisman’s parents did during her team qualifying uneven bar routine. For this Olympic Games, in 2012, with my little three-year- old and two-year- old by my side, I realize that the Olympic Perspective, for me, is not about what the athletes are experiencing but about what the parents are experiencing while watching their children compete. I think of the sacrifices these parents have made to get to London. There are some amazing stories of athletes moving far away from home as mere children to align with world-class coaches, and of parents who awake at dawn to drive their son or daughter three hours one-way to practice. A Chinese springboard diver recently found out her grandparents had died nearly a year ago while she was away training. Her family only notified her of this detail after she’d won the gold medal. They decided not to tell her so she could focus without distraction.
These 2012 games have caused me to reflect, not just on my own sacrifices, but on the sacrifices, big or small, that all parents make with the hope of giving their kids the tools they need for success. Those sacrifices can be as simple as standing in a two-hour line to get your child’s name on the waitlist at a specific preschool, or as selfless as giving up a kidney. Nonetheless, it is done in the name of love and the desire for your child to reach his or her potential.
That’s why I tear up when I see the joy on Olympic parents’ faces. They fully know the sacrifices they’ve made and the joy they feel in witnessing their children reaching the pinnacle of success. They know in a split second they would make those sacrifices all over again. And even in defeat, many of these parents realize all the effort was worth it. I don’t know if my kids will be successful athletes or even have Olympic prospects, but I do know that by simply being a parent, the “Olympic Perspective” is a universal connection that moms and dads share.