I'm a sports fan, always have been - my parents had the baseball games playing on the radio and we enjoyed Sunday lunch while watching football. I dabbled in playing various sports when I was younger, was on the swim team, played some field hockey and my volleyball experience even got me hired as a intramural referee in college. Regardless of the sport, I am impressed with the athletes who dedicate themselves to the craft of perfecting that skill and the endurance required for it.
As a young girl, I remember watching the Olympics with my older sister (she was always a huge fan of the ice skating competition). I also remember watching the 1984 Summer Olympics and hearing how proud my mom was of Mary Lou Retton, a fellow West Virginian. It was like Mary Lou was a member of our family! And, who can forget the Wheaties boxes? It was fun to sit down to breakfast in the morning with your favorite Olympian.
This is the first Olympics that Anna is old enough to truly sit and pay attention to what is going on, so I was hoping she would be interested in watching the events. Jack had very vague memories of watching the London 2012 Summer Olympics, but described the Sochi Winter games to Anna with great detail and excitement. He was ready! I think it worked to my advantage that the games were starting with gymnastics and swimming - two things Anna loves!
Watching these Olympics has been Parenting Pure Gold; a Lessons in Life 101 class available at 8pm each evening. Each time we watched an event, we've had the opportunity to talk about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. We've discussed the hours and hours of preparation and practice these athletes have given to their sport and the sacrifices they and their families have made to get to the world stage.
We've also discussed what other roles these athletes have in addition to training to be an Olympian. I could see both Jack and Anna's eyes get big when they heard about all the other wonderful things the Olympians are doing such as being parents, going to college - one of my favorite stories is that of gymnast, Houry Gebeshian who is a full-time labor and delivery Physician's Assistant. She said, "Basically, I deliver babies on nights and weekends and train on the days I don't work." Boom.
I especially liked the quiet moments, snuggling at bedtime, when I could tell Anna was watching and trying to figure out why something was happening. I enjoyed telling her about the different swim strokes required for the Individual Medley swimming competition or how the rotations in gymnastics worked. She asked great questions and was energized by the athletes, and, of course, I think she'd like to get her hands on one of those sparkly gymnastics outfits to do her own floor routine.
Who knows what kind of lasting impact watching the Olympic games will have on my children. Without a doubt, there are kids who watch these games and set goals for themselves that sound unimaginable. Joseph Schooling from Singapore had his picture taken with Michael Phelps in 2008 and then, beat him in the 100-Meter Butterfly eight years later in Rio. That's crazy inspiring!
There are just countless stories of courage and strength to learn from such as Yusra Mardini, a refugee swimmer who saved 20 lives after pushing a boat for three hours and Jillion Potter from the US rugby sevens team, a cancer survivor who also recovered from paraplegic injuries. We all have our rough days and I feel like I now have so many new people to draw inspiration from and even more important, these inspiring athletes' stories can remind you of your own strength, wisdom and courage. And, the gold medals you already have in your life!