The Winter Olympics just ended… and I’m sort of in mourning.
Each night during the games, my husband and I would find ourselves immersed in the competitions, cringing at fails and weirdly screaming over victories. I watched sports I didn’t even know existed, and fangirled my heart out over the figure skaters. In fact, I may have become way too invested.
For example, in each competition, whether the athlete succeeded or came up short, there was usually this moment when the camera would pan to the parents of the athlete. Sometimes it was the mom, the dad, or sometimes both, but when their faces would come onto the screen, without fail, I would silently (somewhat ashamedly) weep. Like an idiot. I told you, I became way too invested.
Obviously I didn’t know any of these Olympians or their families. I have no attachment to them, and was usually just learning their names and faces the minute I fast-forwarded to their competition. I don’t know any of their stories or journeys beyond what NBC chose to highlight, but when I saw those parents, I would just imagine what it was like to see their child get to this point. All the successes. All the failures. All the injuries. All the disappointments. And every heart attack-inducing occasion in between when their child would wildly hurl themselves down an icy mountain.
How did they do it? I would ask myself every time the camera showed the parents. How did they put their heart out on that mountain/ice/snow bank in the form of their child year after year, not only knowing the risks, but that it would pay off? Not to mention the personal sacrifice these parents must have made to even get their children to this level. How did they do it?
CUE THE TEARS.
To make matters worse? When the athletes would cross the finish line and make a beeline to hug their parents.
CUE THE SOBS.
Speaking of sobbing and Olympic-like training, I recently potty-trained my 2-year-old son. I followed a three-day program that was highly detailed and made the bold promise that my child would be potty-trained in three days, even through the night. I was skeptical, but prepared to do anything that would avoid the nightmare that was potty-training my daughter three years ago (hence the sobbing).
Before the three days began, I religiously prepared for the training. I cleared my calendar for three days, bought potty training propaganda books, and readied myself to be, as the program dictated, an overzealous cheerleader for my son on his journey to potty training. There was to be no discouraging words, no shaming, and absolutely zero losing of patience, no matter how many accidents occurred.
Guess what? It worked. In three days, and by the grace of God, it worked. And here, another very bold statement: It was actually enjoyable. Potty training was enjoyable? Not a phrase I ever expected myself to write. As I encouraged him until my face hurt, jumping up and down at every success and comforting him, pushing him to keep trying after every failure, I realized this was the meat and potatoes of parenting.
Not the potty training per se, but the gift that is parenting. We get to see our children succeed, build them up when they fail, see them grow, and see the confidence in them when they achieve a goal. We get to be the voice of their number-one fangirl/boy in their head, encouraging them no matter the result. We get to be the misty-eyed parents standing at the bottom of the mountain hoping they make it down in one piece. And when they do, it’s better than if we had even done it ourselves.
I suppose that’s why I cry every time I see the parents on the screen watching their child compete, or when the athlete ignores everyone else in the world in their quest to hug their parents at the end. It illustrates the unique role we have in our children’s lives in that we get to be their number-one fans. Whether it’s potty training or Olympic training, we get to be our children’s greatest overzealous cheerleaders.
Follow Tracy on her blog, littleparentontheprairie.com.