My girls have Olympic fever. Yes even though my daughters have never really shown much interest (or to be quite honest, aptitude) for gymnastics and have no experience other than participating in a tot-tumbling class back when they were in preschool, they have been inspired by the Fab Five, the US girls gymnastics team’s official nickname in case you haven’t watched any of the seemingly continuous Olympic coverage or been exposed to the masterful marketing. (My younger daughter mistakenly thought the team’s nickname was the “Fat Five” and was enraged that anyone would bestow such a title on such trim and toned girls).
While watching the gymnastics competition my daughters donned leotards, headbands and legwarmers and proceeded to show me their moves (apparently in their minds, 80’s disco and gymnastics go well together). It didn’t matter that neither of my children can actually do a handstand or a cartwheel, my girls ran around the family room arranging and rearranging the couch cushions and ottoman as “equipment” and taking turns being “Gabby” and “Jordyn” and “Aly.” I was enlisted as coach and judge and together we made construction paper numbers that I held in the air after each “routine” was completed.
It was amazing to see how viewing the Olympics inspired my children and their play. I have no idea if my girls will sustain their interest in gymnastics, but I appreciated the upsurge in imagination and activity. I loved how it prompted my children to use all sorts of stuff lying around the house to create their version of a balance beam, a vault, and even a scoreboard. I loved how it motivated my girls to move and left them sweaty and red-faced after running and jumping and somersaulting. I loved that it stirred my daughters to feel empathy as they witnessed what these incredible athletes could achieve and the dejection when they didn’t. I loved how mesmerized my girls were by the montages showing the gymnasts as (younger) children and the descriptions of family and friends regarding the sacrifice, discipline, and ultimately the joy of achieving greatness in the form of a gold medal.
And yet even though my daughters watched in awe, they don’t fully comprehend how rare and extraordinary Olympic athletes are (nor the focus, ability, and determination required of them). Sure, my girls realize these individuals are exceptionally talented and have to train especially hard, but they also believe that everyone is capable of excellence (case in point, while watching Wimbledon earlier this summer they commentated with certainty that my husband could have defeated Federer...). My children don’t see any barriers or borders, they only see potential and possibility. They aren’t jaded, they aren’t cynical, they aren’t even always realistic (they are however sarcastic, as we taught them that trait early….maybe even a little too early). My girls believe anything is possible, they believe in trying your best, they believe in a little magic, they believe in happy endings. And so they believe in going for the gold. And although I doubt either of my daughters will medal in any sport, I have no doubt that they possess the potential for greatness in something….I just don’t think it will involve somersaults.
If your kids are Olympically-interested check out a few of the following sites
Visit Time for Kids at http://www.timeforkids.com/minisite/2012-london-olympics to learn some fascinating facts, see some fantastic photos, and get to know some fabulous figures. Can you guess how many tons of potatoes are used to feed the 210,000 athletes, coaches and volunteers? (232 tons!)
If you or your kids want to learn more about the amazing girls on the US Gymnastics Team check out http://www.nbcolympics.com/team-usa/meet-the-team/news=meet-the-team-u-s-women-393808.html for bios and background.
Michelle Albright has two kids, two dogs, a PhD in Psychology, and occasionally a bear in her backyard. She is a Weston resident and currently directs Albright Educational Consulting which provides a range of services for children, families, schools, and communities, in order to enhance children’s social, emotional, and academic success. To learn more please visit www.albrighteducationalconsulting.com