Wednesday, August 17, 2016

How Parenting is Like the Olympics

I love the Olympics. Everything about it is so awe inspiring. I love watching the competition and hearing the life stories of the various athletes. I love how it makes me feel proud to be an American, and that it brings the whole world together. A few nights ago, as I was watching some track and field, I couldn't help but think that parenting and the Olympics have many similarities.

one. Sometimes the conditions are not ideal. We have all been hearing the reports out of Rio that athletes might be swimming and sailing through raw sewage, industrial runoff, trash, and algal blooms that are in the bay. The Zika Virus has kept some athletes from even making the trip to compete in Rio. The diving pool turned a deep shade of green due to overly aggressive algae growth. Well, in parenting there are some less than ideal situations we have all found ourselves in at one time or another. Situations such as cleaning "raw sewage" out of the bathtub, cleaning up accidents during potty training, cleaning up vomit from every little crevice in the car seat, finding moldy plates or cups in your child's room, and disposing of sippy cups that have been missing a few days and now emit a foul smell of rotten milk. Take out all these conditions, and parenting, and the Olympics would be a lot more glamorous.

two. Sometimes all eyes are on us. Obviously, the entire world is watching these world class athletes compete in their sport. As parents we can also find "all eyes on us." Just the other day, my three year old had a massive meltdown right after arriving at the pool. All eyes were on me as I began to handle the situation. I tried having said child sit out on the pool chair for three minutes to calm down. It did not work. He screamed louder, was trying to run away and jump in the pool. My first parenting strategy was not working.  So, I made the decision that I needed to take him home and wait until he calmed down, talk about/discipline him for his behavior, and then assess if we could go back to the pool. He continued his fit until we got home. He finally realized that I meant business and that he was going to lose out. After a teaching moment, and some time away from the pool, we then returned. When I first walked in I had felt embarrassed that everyone had witnessed my son's meltdown. A parent walked by me and commented that her son had been behaving the same way all week. Her comment felt like she was offering a parenting fist bump (an "I get you"). We've all been there and have had to handle things while others watch on (if you're shaking your head no, just wait). Just like Olympic athletes we have to do the best we can, with what we've got.  We'll be thrown into situations or circumstances, but it's nice to have others cheering us on from the sidelines (please encourage rather than criticize).

three. Endurance. These athletes have been training since they were very young. All for this moment. They have sacrificed much to get where they are. Many have talked about missing out on childhood, prom, and other activities because instead they were at the gym, pool, or track training. These athletes work for years for their chance to make the Olympic team, in hopes of showing the world that they are the best. This takes dedication, love for their sport, mental focus, and a lot of energy and determination.

As parents we are in this thing for 18 plus years, not knowing how it's all going to turn out. There are sleepless nights (lots of caffeine), sacrifices, and days we want to pull our hair out. But we keep going! Some days we wonder if we are doing anything right at all, but in the end we give it everything we've got, because we love these little humans that are entrusted to our care. Lord willing, in 18 plus years, when we get to see the fruits of our labor as parents we will like what we see, and feel that we have been victorious. Just like Olympic training, parenting takes dedication, love for our "sport," mental focus, a LOT of energy, determination, and prayer.

four. Pride. I love watching the medal ceremony and seeing the athletes who after all their hard work and dedication, receive their reward.  As the national anthem begins to play some are overcome with emotion. As I watch my kids day to day, I too feel this sense of pride, and I am amazed at what I get to be apart of. Raising this little person to be the best person he/she can be. Whether, I'm watching them accomplish things they have worked hard for; riding their bike without training wheels, a good grade on a spelling test, or a great hit at a ball game. Or watching their character develop and seeing them treat a peer with compassion, encourage and help their siblings, or include someone that was left out. I am overcome with emotion, that all the hard work and dedication are paying off! All these small moments contribute to the amazing journey of parenthood. The rough bumps in the road, make the victory that much sweeter!

five. Quitting is not an option. The other night I watched as the favorite runner in her heat, slipped and fell at the end of her race (the track was still wet from the rain that day). She didn't quit and give up, she jumped back up and finished the race, coming in last place in her heat. Or runners Abbey D'Agostino (USA) and Nikki Hamblin (New Zealand) who collided during the 5,000 meter event. 
Hamblin says, "I went down, and I was like, 'What's happening? Why am I on the ground?'" "Then suddenly, there's this hand on my shoulder [and D'Agostina saying], 'Get up, get up, we have to finish this.' And I'm like, 'Yup, yup, you're right. This is the Olympic Games. We have to finish this.' "I'm so grateful for Abbey for doing that for me. That girl is the Olympic spirit right there."

Quitting is not an option. Some days giving up feels like the easy thing to do, there may be pain and conflict.  But we fight, and we press on, because parenting and raising kids is a high calling. We have to finish this! We have to be there and champion one another on in this parenting endeavor. There is no time for judgement and criticism from the sidelines. We are better together. Who can you "put your hand on their shoulder" and encourage today?

So Olympic Parent, disappointed that you don't have a gold medal to show for your efforts? I think you do. Just look into the eyes of your precious child and see the love they have for you, their parent, who has trained hard, endured, and persevered to be the parent they need. So keep up the good work, keep your eye on the end goal, you're going to get there!

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