20 February 2006

Olympic Parenting

It's Olympic season. Many of the bloggers I read don't seem to be writing too much about them, although I know that New Kid thinks snowboard cross is boring, and that the Geeky family hasn't quite gotten into the Olympics the way they used to (although Geeky Girl likes the all-girl events). So I've really enjoyed Ianqui's post about Joey Cheek and Arwen's nice string of posts on the Olympics, the first of which had a pretty fun comment string (slight tangent: since I'm linking to some of Arwen's recent posts I must also recommend her birthday post for John, an eloquent and loving post that gives a great view of the particulars that make their life together. It's the kind of beautiful post I love about blogs, but that's a topic for another post.)

I love the Olympics. I don't think about them much when they're not happening, but when they're on, I love the way so many memories come back. I remember sitting in my living room watching Jean Claude Killy and Peggy Fleming in 1968--ever interested in gender and language, I thought it was odd that men in France sometimes had two names and that Jean was a man's name in French and a women's name in English. I remember watching Mark Spitz winning his medals--this time on a bigger color TV in our den. I remember being entranced by Olga Korbut, made ecstatic by the 1980 men's hockey medal, saddened--and politically educated--by the tragedy in Munich. I loved being in Canada for the Olympics, watching CBC covereage that wasn't anywhere so jingoistic and considerably more broad than US coverage is. And I loved the pageantry: the clothing people wore in the parade of nations, the cultural and geography lessons inspired by the athletes, the panoramas the networks showed as they did features on the host countries. As a child, I was never much of an athlete, so I never had fantasies of competing in the Olympics. I just loved seeing the world, and seeing people be good at so many sports (even those, like the bobsled, that I never see anywhere else). It's a nice way to think back on where I've been and what I was like, as I remember how the Olympics seemed through my younger eyes.

But a sure sign of becoming middle-aged: when watching the snowboarding on Friday night, watching Lyndsey Jacobellis win silver (or lose gold, depending on how you view it), I said to Politica, "look, her mother must be so excited to see this." Yes, I've shifted my perspective from identifying with or looking up to the athletes to identifying with the parents of athletes. I was quite put out by the coverage of Jacobellis' snowboard race (perspectives on all sides nicely summed up here). I'm not that big a fan of snowboarding--although Jo(e)'s string of snowboarding posts this winter almost makes me want to learn--but it irritated me that so many of the commentators immediately accused Jacobellis of showboating and thus losing a medal. That's not what she says she did, and she was reasonably well-spoken about how races aren't over until the finish line and about how happy she was to have a silver medal. Maybe because I was always the last one across the pool at my swimming lessons, I'm not a big fan of an emphasis on gold medals only. Surely the trying, the effort, the surprise endings, are all part of what makes sport fun? I love watching CG's body in action. I love watching her go. OK, swimming lessons with three year olds aren't exactly the Olympics, but it doesn't matter to me whether she gets her arm circles right or not. I just love that she's in the pool having fun. It's just great to watch.

Another parenting angle on this Olympics is Toby Dawson's search for his Korean birth parents. There are photos on the NBC olympics site showing him as a child in Korea and then growing up in the US. I hope he's able to make the connections he wants to. Whenever I see adult adoptees talking about their parents--any of their parents--I wonder what Curious Girl will be like when she's older. Today she used her birth mother's name for the first time out of the blue. I was telling her how most babies pop out between their mother's legs (as opposed to those who need C-sections; we've been looking at photos from the day Young Friend was born and I got to be in the operating room, wearing a mask, hence many questions). "When I was inside A., did I come out like that?" she said. Later today I heard her telling Politica a long story about babies who couldn't find their mamas because the phone numbers were lost, although a judge was saying that it was OK for the babies to have mamas. She's sorting all this out, talking it through. And I hope that she, and Dawson, will find whatever answers they can to whatever questions they have.


Phantom Scribbler said...

I haven't seen a moment of the Olympics this time around, but it has added to my life just by inspiring this lovely post!

I must be a few years younger than you: my Olympic reference points are Dorothy Hamill and Nadia Comaneci.

(And, aside to aside, I loved Arwen's post for her husband's birthday, too.)

Arwen said...

Thanks for the appreciation. (When I first typed this, I accidentally hit the yell lock, and so it looked as if I said "Thanks for THE APPRECIATION!" Which is providing moments of hilarity over here. Maybe we need more sleep.)

I absolutely have experienced the shift to thinking about the parents of the atheletes. It's odd, but I like it. I get so happy for all of them - it's fun to win medals, but I'm not too hung up on it. Hundredths of seconds out of the medal standings? They're all amazing to me.

The Italian vendetta was amusing. I've been having fun imagining the relationship that lead up until that moment...

liz said...

I've not watched as much of them this year. Mostly because as I'm driving home from school, the local news station tells me who won.

I watched the skating (not the ice dancing though...feh) and the skiing. I wish I could have the balance and confidence the competitors have.