Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Gold Medal in Parenting

Erin has been all over the Olympics.  She watches every night (unless the Giants are playing then she switches between the two).  And she is enthralled.  Like edge of her seat, sobbing like a baby after every event, won't walk into the other room enthralled.  She knows the results of many of the events and is still watching with bated breath.

I've never been all about the Olympics for a number of reasons, so it is just background noise for me for a couple of weeks.  I came to the realization that it is a perfect storm of women's entertainment.  You have incredibly athletic, shirtless dudes.  You have women's gymnastics.  And you have NBC tugging on your heartstrings by constantly going to the human interest well and showing all the parents' emotional reactions.

Because when you really think about it, you are watching children compete.  Sure many of them are teenagers, but they are still children nonetheless.  This is especially true in women's gymnastics and some of the swimming events.

This has led me to think about how much of their childhood many of this kids have given up.  I'm all for my kids doing things they love and doing whatever I can to cultivate a true talent or knack for something.  I want them to push to be the best, but part of me can't comprehend dedicating their young lives entirely to the pursuit Olympic glory.  And really unless they're Nadia Comaneci or Mary Lou Retton (i.e. truly legendary performers) that glory is really fleeting.

And this is part of the thin line that I think every parent walks with their kids.  Do I want to push my kids so much that they'll miss out on all life has to offer them?  Am I doing them a disservice if I don't push them harder and they don't realize the potential to do something great?  Will pushing them too hard or not pushing them hard enough lead to missed opportunities or unrealized potential?  Will they resent me either way?

I just know that I don't want to be like Aly Raisman's parents.  She's one of the girls on the American Gymnastics team that just won Gold.  If you're watching, you've probably seen her parents' reactions throughout her performances.  I'd link to the video but the IOC has blocked it on Youtube.  Just to give you a blow-by-blow, they writhe, squirm and contort their faces like they're watching the latest Saw movie.  I find it incredibly hard to watch.  I understand you want to see your kid succeed, but this is extreme.  Their reactions, to me, go beyond cheering your kid on.  These are people that are living through their kid.

I want the best for my girls, but that is also a cop out, generic statement.  What is the best for them really?  I can't really determine what it is right now.  I guess more than anything the best is to give them as many opportunities as possible.  The best is to love them for who they are and not what they can do.  The best is to be in their corner no matter what.  The best is to give them a variety of options instead of shoehorning them into a particular activity.

For now I just want them to be kids and to enjoy everything that goes along with it.  For now they'll get the Gold Medal in being adorable.

1 comment:

James said...

It's hard to judge with the television broadcast being the only window I have into these people's lives, but the sense sure is strong that these parents are in fact living through their children. In other words, their childhood has been taken from them.