It’s funny how things change. Four years ago, during the last Olympics, I kept looking up the athlete’s ages and whenever I found someone older than me — I was 24 at the time — I’d feel a silly smidgen of hope. It wasn’t too late for me! I could still be an Olympian! The fact that I have absolutely no athletic ability was just a minor detail.
This time around, I’ve been doing a different kind of math. According to the always reliable Yahoo! Answers, you must be at least 16 years old on an Olympic year to compete, that means that both, Luki and Pau can go to the 2028 games. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out which sport they’ll be winning gold in.
This is my first time watching the Olympics as a mother, so I’ve been paying close attention to the footage of the athlete’s parents and it’s got me thinking: How much of a role has their parenting style played in getting their kids there?
I know that these kids’ folks have made tremendous sacrifices. The countless hours watching their children compete, the money spent on their training and equipment, the driving back and forth to different gyms and tournaments have all, undoubtedly, contributed to their offspring’s success. But, what about what they say to their kids? How they treat them? It takes a whole lot of confidence to be 16 years old, do a back flip off a balance beam in front of the whole world, and stick the landing. How have these parents instilled that kind of confidence? Are they responsible for planting the seed of competition in their children? Do they actually tell their kids that they are the best so that they can go out and be the best?
As I look back at the way I was raised, I feel like my parents were very leery of having my brother and I believe we were better than anyone else. Don’t get me wrong, they supported us and were proud of us, but I’d often catch them touting our achievements to their friends and peers with more enthusiasm than they ever showed us. They constantly encouraged us to look at things from the other’s point of view, and, from a very young age, would take our cousin’s or our friend’s side whenever we argued over a toy or a game, even when we were clearly in the right. They also never defined success for us as a gold medal, a first place finish, a high paying job, or a fat savings account. Instead, success was having time to spend with friends and family, not being stressed, feeling happy.
Today, my brother and I are happy, well adjusted adults. We are confident in our knowledge, our decisions, our work, our relationships, yet we are incapable of meeting an important person at a party and tooting our own horn for personal gain. Nothing makes us more uncomfortable than having to market ourselves. Our dreams are not made of glorious accomplishments recognized by millions; instead, the thing we most desire and look forward to is uninterrupted time with the people we love, preferably on a beach somewhere.
I want Luki and Pau to have these same values. To be mindful of other’s feelings, to put family first, to find what truly makes them happy... but I also want them to go out and accomplish magnificent things; I want them to go for the gold.
So tell me, are these two mutually exclusive? How are you raising your kids? Do you tell them they’re the best? And if so, do you believe they are? Do you define success for them? What does it look like? And, how has the way you were raised impacted you?
I'd love to hear your feedback; after all, I've got 16 years to raise a couple of happy, well adjusted Olympians.