the bittersweet parental projections of watching the olympics

Is it just me, or has there been a big focus on the parents of the Olympic athletes this year?  It’s been so fascinating watching and learning about the athletes, but then also hearing the stories of their parents (and watching their reactions during the games).  To be honest, I find the interviews with the parents as interesting as the games themselves. I love the Raising Olympians series that P&G does. (And yes, they are sponsoring this post . . . but not to dork out and watch every single one, multiple times, with a box of tissues in my hand).  Maybe because this is the first Olympics that I’ve had kids older than the toddler stage, but it’s hard not to identify with these moms as they talk about the choices and sacrifices they had to make for their kids.

My favorite so far has been the one on Gabby Douglas, whose mom basically sent her to live with another family so that she could train with a better coach.

I watch this, and while I admire the sacrifice and determination . . . I don’t think I could do it.  I think I would have ended up throwing in the towel on the Olympic dreams.  Of course, this is probably why I was never particularly good at any sport.  Well, that and my total lack of eye-hand coordination.

I think that’s a part of what is so bittersweet about watching the Olympics. It’s such an amazing accomplishment to get there, but there is inherently so much they’ve given up to get there, too.

How about you?  Could you have made the sacrifice Gabby’s mom did? Would you be willing to live apart from a child to help fulfill their dreams?

This post was sponsored by P&G, proud sponsor of the P&G Family Home, where athletes and their families can gather to relax, share a meal, get their laundry done courtesy of Tide and enjoy some pampering in the P&G Salon.

do kids really pick their own passions? (on deliberating what activities my kids are involved in)

I mentioned this in a post last week (and gymnast Jordyn Wieber’s mom gave some really good insight) but I thought I’d elaborate a bit in case some of you have any insight for me. I feel like I am constantly befuddled as to what extra-curricular activities I should have my kids involved in. Just figuring out the timing of classes and game schedules is enough to make me want to take a nap, but I am also constantly second-guessing what activities would be best for each kid in terms of their natural abilities and talents vs. what I really want for them. Philosophically, I agree with the theory that kids should choose their own passions. I have seen the results of pushy parents who force their kids to be involved in the activity of the parent’s choosing, with no regard for the child.  I’ve watched kids cry while being forced out onto a baseball field. I’ve seen parents insistent that their preschooler learn violin.  And we’ve all seen commercials for that show Dance Moms.  Clearly, I don’t want to be that kind of mother.  I want my kids to choose what it is that they love instead of being forced into a hobby that isn’t a good fit. IMG_2226(It’s cute because you can’t hear it) At the same time, I do think that kids need some gentle encouragement, because seriously . . . what child naturally decides to take piano lessons or signs themselves up for a group sport?  Obviously, parents are behind these decisions for younger kids.  I wrote a post last year about my decision to stop taking my boys to the skate park, and that was met with some critical readers who felt I was squelching their passions.  But without me, they would never have even known the skate park existed.  I bought the helmets, I bought the boards . . . and I also decided that they were better off skating at home instead of around a bunch of foul-mouthed teenagers.  So, yeah.  I do think that parents play a role in the decision-making. IMAG0456For example: India does not care for sports. At all. She’s very much like me, and more interested in reading and music. However, I really want her to find some kind of physical activity that she enjoys.  I don’t care what it is . . . but I don’t want her resigning herself to the “athletically adverse” label I assigned to myself as a child. I’ve tried really hard to help her find what she enjoys.  Basketball was a bust – she hated it. She wasn’t thrilled with soccer, either.  Finally we signed her up for tennis. She did NOT want to go initially, and it took some prodding for the first couple of lessons, but now she is really enjoying it.  I think her enjoyment is heavily influenced by the adorable tennis outfits I let her pick out, but she is happily engaged in a sport, which is what I wanted for her.  But did she naturally stumble onto this passion?  Not at all.  It was a heavily orchestrated affair. On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got my boys, who have never met  a sport they didn’t like. However, they are ambivalent about the creative arts.  Coming from a rather musical family, I’ve always felt that kids should at least be introduced to musical concepts, and know how to play one instrument proficiently. And yes, perhaps that fact puts me in the category of  the pushy parent I described above, but there it is. I don’t need my kids to be concert pianists, but I’d like all of them to be able to read music and having a working knowledge of chords and theory in case they decide that music is something they want to pursue later in life.  I don’t care what instrument floats their boat, but I think the arts are important.  Consequently, I am currently making Jafta take piano lessons, despite the fact that he would rather not.  Once he’s a little older I will let him choose a different instrument but I think piano sets a good foundation. My mother did this as well, and I’m glad she did.  I ended up majoring in piano performance for two years in college, even though at age 6 I was kicking and screaming over lessons.  Does that mean she chose my passion . . . or does it mean that she taught me discipline until my own passion matured? IMG_1236 Then there is the issue of choosing a sport for my boys.  They really are game (no pun intended) for any sport – they would happily partake in football, karate, paddle boarding, surfing, basketball, baseball, skating, BMX biking . . . I think the interest is there at any turn, but because our time and resources are limited, I’ve got to narrow it down. So how do I make those decisions? Do I let them choose?  Do I pick the one I’d rather watch them in? Do I just base it off convenience and schedule?  IMG_2625 Let me pause here and mention that I realize it is an incredible privilege that we are able to even talk about multiple sports programs because this stuff gets pricey. I know there are many kids out there that don’t have the same access due to limited resources. P&G created the Team USA Youth Sports Fund to try to ensure all moms, regardless of their resources, can raise healthy, active kids. P&G has sponsored this post today, and for every new follower over at @thankyoumom  on twitter, they will donate $1 to the fund up to $50,000. IMG_5633 Have I ever mentioned both of my parents were black belts in Tae Kwon Do? My mom was an instructor, and I had to take it for a while, but eventually begged my way out of going. And now Jafta is begging his way in. IMG_1186 Honestly, as I’m writing this, I think maybe I’ve answered my own question a bit.  I think parents play a huge role in influencing their kids’ interests.  None of my kids have ever begged for lessons. In fact, Jafta has readily admitted that, if left to his own devices, he would stay home and play video games all day. (And we don’t even OWN video games).  So if my kids are active in sports or the arts, much of that is coming from my preference that they be active. I know that I want my kids to be involved in extra-circulars as they grow up. I want them to play team sports and I want them to be involved in some kind of creative activity. At this stage, I might be picking it for them, and I might even be pushing past resistance.  As they get older, I will give them more freedom to choose, but I will probably also insist that they pick something.  I think that having kids involved in activities is important on many levels. How about you? How do you choose what activities your kids are involved it? Have you ever put them in something that they didn’t like, and insisted they continue?  PSOM_a

friday finds: raising an olympian with shawn johnson’s mom

Recently gymnast Shawn Johnson, who won the all-around silver in the 2008 Olympic games, attempted a comeback in the 2012 games after recovering from a serious knee injury.  In this video, P&G highlights her story, focusing on her mom’s role in her journey.  There are so many things I love about Shawn’s mom – but espacially the emphasis on balance and enjoyment that she instilled in her daughter. She taught her that being excellent is something to strive for, but also to have other interests and goals for the future.  After her injury, her mom did not freak out, but rather saw it as an opportunity for growth. You can watch their whole story here. Fair warning: grab a tissue first.     Edited to add: Since this video, Shawn Johnson has retired from gymnastics, and describes herself as very content . . . even calling her retirement a “blessing”. I think this is the marker of incredible parents: that she could excel at such a high level, and later find meaning outside of her sport of choice.  What an incredible role model.  I look forward to seeing what is next for Shawn. PSOM_a This post was sponsored by P&G. P&G’s Thank You Mom campaign postulates that being a mom is the hardest and most important job in the world  . . . and I tend to agree!  P&G is dedicated to helping moms raise healthy kids with the P&G Team USA Youth Sports Fund. This fund will help provide access to quality sports programs for kids across the country. In honor of Olympic Trials, for every new @thankyoumom follower, P&G will donate $1 to the P&G Team USA Youth Sports Fund, up to $50,000.

is motherhood the hardest job in the world?

Last month P&G asked if I wanted to be a part of a their Thank You Mom campaign for the 2012 Olympic Games.  I don’t do a lot of sponsored content on my blog, but being a part of a series whose main goal is to honor moms?  I’m all about that. P&G wanted create a movement that recognizes motherhood as the hardest, but, best job, in the world.  It’s a bit ironic, given the recent news coverage of Hilary Rosen’s comment about Ann Romney, and the record scratch heard the world over as moms declared that they are indeed working, too.  Whether it is stumbling out of bed each morning to get kids fed, doing loads and loads of laundry, juggling practice times, or caring for a child’s injuries, one thing is universally true for all mothers on every continent: while being a mom may be the toughest job in the world, it also is the most rewarding job in the world. Below is the first spot for this year’s Thank You Mom campaign, and I think it captures perfectly the hard work that moms do.  But you might want to grab a tissue first. This post was sponsored by P&G.  P&G is the Proud Sponsor of Moms, not just the moms of athletes, but  ALL moms around the world. Join P&G in thanking your mom by sharing this video with her.  In addition, for each person who likes the Thank You Mom facebook page, P&G will donate $1 to the USOC P&G|Team USA Youth Sports fund, up to $100,000.  This is part of a $5MM global commitment P&G has made to support local youth sports in many countries. PSOM_a