It's probably not politically correct to admit that you don't enjoy everything about the Olympics, but I'm going to come clean. Yes, I enjoy watching the winners' faces and the medal ceremonies, but for the most part, I'm forced to turn the channel every now and then to avoid post-traumatic stress of the parenting kind.
That's right. I did not raise an Olympian and it's all my fault. A fortnight of coverage just hammers home my sporting inadequacies and overall bad bleacher attitude. While I haven't done a formal psychological assessment, I'm pretty certain parenting behavior differs between Olympic and non-Olympic groups. I've got five hypotheses I believe distinguish Parents of Olympians from Regular Parents. See what you think...
Hypothesis #1: Parents of Olympians don't catastrophize.
These championship nurturers don't focus on the possible injuries, they keep their eye on the prize. When it comes to extreme sports, I can take on the anxiety of an entire nation. They visualize gold medals. I visualize metal plates and take imaginary rides to the emergency room just watching their kids turn a flip on the balance beam.
Hypothesis #2: When necessary, parents of Olympians can get distance from their kids.
Sometimes they move with their children, but some send their children off to faraway lands alone to train. Okay, I confess, during those teen years I tried to send Son #1 away for "training." Unfortunately, there was no full-time Ultimate (Frisbee) program.
Hypothesis #3: Parents of Olympians have more energy and enthusiasm.
They don't rejoice when the soccer practice is rained out or a game is forfeited. It doesn't matter that this opens up a window to grocery shop, read a newspaper or finally shave your legs; a delay or closure only delays children's sporting success. Did Michael Phelps's mother ever do a happy dance when a thunderstorm forced a pool closure? I think not. She knew practice made perfect and postponing perfection isn't a good idea with the Olympics looming.
Are my kids happy? Yes, but there are still hints of resentment.
Son #2: "I wanted to be a professional hockey player but you and Dad never let me play."
Me: "Honey, you were in skating lessons for two years and even then you couldn't stand up on blades for more than three seconds."
Son #2: "That's irrelevant. You had a bad attitude about it from the start."
True. That rink was freezing cold. Which brings me to Hypothesis #4....
Hypothesis #4: Parents of Olympians are better at tolerating extreme temperatures.
They watch in the oppressive heat and still clap when their hands are frozen. While they might complain, they never miss a game or move to higher ground. Ever. These parents won't let a little frost bite push their kids into the indoor chess club. They wouldn't suggest a career shift toward sports commentating because the booth is air conditioned. They just wouldn't. Whether they see future antiperspirant or mitten endorsements isn't clear, but it's certainly a well-earned potential perk.
Hypothesis #5: Parents of Olympians aren't easily distracted.
They are never caught chatting with their girlfriends during a crucial play. I missed goals, home run hits and injuries because I got caught up in conversation or some unrelated activity. I haven't seen one camera shot of Gabriel Douglas's mom chatting it up with her BFF in the bleachers while her daughter scores a gold.
Congratulations Olympic champs and their parents for a job well done. And congrats to bleacher parents everywhere, because just being a parent is an Olympic-size job.