I can only imagine how hard it must be to be a parent of an Olympic athlete. And yes — thank you P&G for putting this in my head.
My husband and I follow the Olympics – particularly these last two sets (the 2008 and the 2012) since we get so much coverage of it here in the US. We’ve been watching the Olympic trials for swimming, gymnastics and the sprints over the last week or so, and coupled with the Bounty – Let the Spills Begin Campaign, I find myself thinking more and more about what it would be like to be a parent of an Olympic athlete (instead of the usual, “What would it be like to compete in the Olympics?” thought bubble).
It goes without saying that I have tremendous respect for the athletes themselves. Heck, they do the work and train for four years! (FOUR years! So much in my life has changed in the last four years! How do you train for just one event for four years?! FOUR YEARS!) I suppose my perspective has shifted since the last Olympics when I became a (proud) parent myself.
I can only imagine how much the parents’ lives revolve around supporting their child’s Olympic dream. Taking them to training, making sure they get the right amount of sleep and the right kind of food, and helping keep their grades up… I just feel (I could be wrong!) that for it to work and for a child to be completely inspired to win, then the parents have to be heavily invested in their dream too. It consumes their schedules, their conversations, and most likely their entire lives!
As a parent you’d want to be at every meet, at every event… maybe even at every practice session, even if it is just for moral support. Isn’t that what every child wants from their folks anyway? But as Mom or Dad, you’re also caught in that middle ground which includes a certain amount of helplessness. The grandstand is as far as the parents go and the work is all up to them. The world watches — and judges — as your child triumphs or fails.
But what happens if it’s your child who falls off the high bars? Or who makes a slight error off the turn in the relay? Even if you say you can manage expectations, you know they did their best… it still must be hard to watch. Without a doubt every parent is proud of their child for trying so hard, but as real people with real emotions, the behind-the-scenes aftermath must be tough to deal with. On TV everyone can put on a smile and say what the world wants to hear, but it’s the parent who has to take the child back home and withstand the tears and the consequences that come with the “failure”.
Then what if… they want to do it all over again? And try for the next Olympics? It’s a repeat of the last four years ALL. OVER. AGAIN! Except maybe now, there is a new element — a new “hope” that they make it this time around. As if that makes it easier to go through!
Occasionally during the trials the TV camera would pan into the audience and feature the parents. There didn’t seem to be any parent who looked relaxed. Their auras (and white knuckles), emitted tension and nervousness through the TV screen. Everyone of them seemed to be holding their breath, even Michael Phelps’ mom! You’d think she’d be a little bit more confident since her son got 8 Gold Medals the last time. Before every trial race she looked like she did 4 years ago, and she would explode with the same amount of energy each time he finished. Actually she may have been holding her breath for each race, I wouldn’t be surprised!
Then again, Olympic parent or not — isn’t that how all parents feel about their children in all aspects of life? Academics, tests, ballet recitals, and play dates… watching them grow up in general? The Olympics merely puts this entire parenting perspective on a grander, high pressure scale, but no one is free from the barrage of mixed feelings that come with parenting.
I think about my girls and naturally I want them to achieve whatever it is they dream for themselves. Knowing me, I will most likely be incredibly invested and will do all I can to help achieve this (I can be a Tiger Mom that way I think). I don’t know how I’ll do just standing in the sidelines and watching as things play out (Praying to the highest heavens the whole time). That isn’t my personality, but then again I don’t think I’d have much of a choice, now would I? 😉 Ahhh yes, another hard lesson to be learned as a parent.
It’s very cliché to say that for as long as they do their best I’d be proud any which way. Yes, cliché but true (and there is no other way to say it). And whether they like it or not (or know it or not), I will always be their #1 cheerleader and ultimate die-hard fan, simply because I am their mother.
(… And yes. Motherhood has definitely made me more hormonal!)