Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Olympic Spirit

On Tuesday the US women's gymnastics team captured the gold medal at the Olympics. I only watched about 20 minutes of it that evening before I fell asleep. It was the middle of my work week, I was still recovering from a diabolical migraine from the day before, and my boys could just care less about watching gymnastics on television. (performing it, all over the house and on various pieces of furniture is much more fun.)

This Olympics, we've watched a lot of swimming, because that seems to be our family sport. And in some ways the straight-forward rules and rankings are refreshing. But it lacks the drama of my childhood favorite sport.

16 years ago was the last time that the American women took gold in gymnastics, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Glued to the television in the evenings at summer youth camp. My twin sister, and friend S and I had watched every moment leading up to this competition with scrutiny and expertise. There were many tears shed that week in the all-around competition. None of the Americans medaled, much to everyone's surprise. But the lows of that day only heightened the beauty of the team competition. Who can forget the broken ankle heard 'round the world? A scene that was acted out for months to come. We missed it, because we had to go back to our rooms. But we rehashed it in our minds, the playbacks, and our at-home-videotaped viewings for months. The Magnificent Seven.

This year, it was the Fab Five.

And I cannot believe it has been 16 years since 1996. Granted, a lot has happened since then. At the time, I was preparing to enter high school. Hopeful for a better experience than Jr High. Still figuring out the things that I was good at, and who I wanted to be. In awe of girls who, at the same age of 15 had the drive and focus to make it to the Olympic Games, when I often found it difficult to practice my trumpet for a couple hours or complete a homework assignment.

Fast forward 16 years, and my earnest training has begun.

In some ways, if you'll allow it, being the mother of small children is not unlike being an athlete training for the Olympics. It is physically and mentally all-consuming. There is a lot you have to give up, like sleeping in, or going out, or even just sitting around watching tv, or having an adult conversation. Your diet has changed because you don't have time to sit down, or like I did- because you have to cut out almost every form of protein in the early months of breastfeeding so your child won't scream. And it changes your entire identity. On the rare occasion that you are without a small child in your arms, you feel a little naked. Sure, you enjoy a break from the intensity of your "sport" once in a while, but it is not without its emptiness either. You feel a sort of calm certainty of the extreme nature of the task you have been given, and your God-given ability to stand up to it, even when everything hurts and you just want to take a break.

Sure, there's no podium, or anthem, or medals, and there's always the chance that there'll be a big stumble and things won't turn out like you'd hoped at the end.
Washing the dishes and watching JT teach the boys how to use a blood pressure cuff in the living room last night, really got me thinking about the Olympics that will be 16 years from now. If 1996 seems just like yesterday, that means 2028 isn't so far away either.

In 2028 Aquaman will be almost 20, and the The Dude will be 17 years old. We don't know for sure, but God willing, they may have a sibling in the throes of early adolescense as well. Gone will be the days of nocturnal marathon nursing and skin to skin cuddling. They're sure to be climbing on and jumping off of bigger things than tables, and most of the time when they cry, I will probably never even know about it.

I dread those late teenager/early twenties' days with the nervousness of one who, bathed in the Word of God since infancy, and Grasped in the Hands of Christ since childhood, knows what it is to struggle in finding yourself. And I'll be there for them whenever they need me, but my role will be different then. When I'll feel like a winner as a mother is seeing them reach higher than my arms, even in the thick of their own confusion.

We don't all live out the greatest moments and dramas of our lives on the television or in an enormously crowded aquatic center, but we are all granted our own versions of the Olympics.

The lifeguard award ceremony took place on Sunday, and for the 2nd year in a row JT was awarded "Officer of the Year".  It was so incredibly touching to hear the lifeguards chanting his name, and to see all the time and heart he has been putting into this being rewarded. The boys became restless before the end, so I moved them up to the playground. After a while, I told Aquaman that Daddy would be coming soon and we'd be going home. He said "yes, I think the Olympics must be over by now."

It touched me that he had made that leap from our small discussions about the Olympics, and the bits and pieces he had seen on television. Somehow, in his simplicity, he had come to understand that the Olympics is not just about swimming, or running or sticking a landing. It is about working hard at what you do, and cheering each other on as you go.

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