Thursday, August 2, 2012

Olympic Hopefuls

The weeks of the Olympics are one of the few times that I miss having a TV in the house. In order to expose our kids to the culture and fun of the Olympic games we dedicated Monday and Tuesday evenings to going to Grandma and Grandpa Eby's house and gluing ourselves to their TV. Unfortunately, in the Eastern Time zone that meant letting the kids watch from 8pm until midnight! But hey, the Olympics only come every four years, and they were free to sleep in the next day.

All four kids sat riveted for an unprecedented amount of time watching synchronized diving, swimming, and gymnastics. The personal biographies and family stories woven throughout the competitions grabbed their hearts and made them cheer out loud for their favorite athletes. "Go Missy! Go Missy!" they yelled at the TV as Missy Franklin took her first swimming gold medal, as if they'd always known her. A few happy tears welled up in some eyes during the medals ceremony. They empathized with the athletes' failures, exulted in their successes, and just marveled at their abilities.

Toby watched closely, with eyebrows furrowed, as a male gymnast tumbled and flipped during and impressive floor routine. Quietly, to no one but himself, he noted, "I will try that later."

About 11:00 Tuesday evening Naomi's eyes were drooping closed. She tilted her head back to peer at the TV as the women's gymnastics team sealed their gold medal. "Are you ready to go home, Naomi?" I asked.

"No!" she answered definitively. "I still want to watch."

There's something wonderful about feeling a little awe at the athletes' impressive abilities, a little pride in your country's accomplishments, and a little fun in breaking the rules and staying up past bedtime at Grandma's house. I think my kids will always remember that winning combination.

While we don't expect any Olympic athletes to arise from our family (Toby may disagree), Matt and I have decided that some athletic competition would be good experience for our kids. Yesterday I signed Naomi and Hannah up for our town's park and rec fall soccer league. Naomi is excited. Hannah is beside herself with excitement, in typical Hannah fashion. "Oh, Mommy! Oh, MOMMY!" she crowed, "Oh, I can't WAIT!! Lots of times I've wanted to do something where, you know, you weren't RIGHT beside me, and I didn't know when I could. Oh, Mommy, I'm SO excited!"

In fact, yesterday her excitement turned to pure torture. "When does soccer start again, Mommy?" she asked at least three times. When I told her she'd have to wait about three weeks, she melted to the floor with,  "Oh, I CAN'T wait!" She spent her evening musing about whether her coach would be a boy or a girl, what color T-shirt her team would wear (she's pulling for blue or purple), and what she would say when she first met her other teammates. "I'm so excited it hurts," she whined as she followed me around, "It really hurts. I feel sick waiting. I hope when I wake up tomorrow I don't remember about soccer."

This morning she stumbled out of bed, peered up at me with forlorn eyes under messy bed-head hair and confided quietly, "I didn't forget." Fortunately, the soccer excitement has been overshadowed slightly by new projects and activities today. Hannah may just make it three more weeks, especially since I'm planning on letting them watch Gabby Douglas take the gold medal in the women's all-around tonight. Thanks goodness we have the Olympics to keep Hannah occupied for a few weeks. Next time I sign her up for a sport I'm not going to tell her until we're in the car on our way to practice.

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