I did not grow up in a family that valued athletics. When my dad ordered season tickets he meant the New York Philharmonic or the Metropolitan Opera, not the NY Knicks or Yankees. Though I was very active with ballet four days a week, I detested sports and started cutting gym class in the 3rd grade when I would sneak upstairs to the library to help the librarian shelve books. My parents were not only fine with that, but my doctor dad abetted my distaste for public school Phys Ed with “medical” excuse notes. Its not just that my family didn’t participate in any kind of organized sports – we didn’t even watch them on TV. So, imagine my surprise at the age of 12 when I became completely and utterly enthralled by the 1984 Summer Olympics.
Those Los Angeles hosted Olympics coincided with my first solo airplane trip when I flew to Chicago to stay with my 32 year old, single, successful 80’s career woman Aunt. During that visit I went to my first baseball game, at a light-free Wrigley Field no less, and to my first football game (preseason and in a corporate box, but still a real game.) And I enjoyed them both. But, what I remember most about that trip was watching the Summer Olympics in every spare moment, on TVs wherever we happened to be, at night till I dropped asleep and then the recaps in the morning. Mary Lou Retton twisting through the air and landing that perfect 10 vault will forever be stored in my mind. But, it wasn’t just the gymnastics; it was the swimming and diving, the cycling, and track and field with Carl Lewis soaring over the track. There was something undeniably humbling and spectacular, emotional and intense to all of these endeavors which could only happen once every four years at the Olympics. I have been hooked ever since.
So this year, with the help of a DVR (an Olympics fan’s best friend), I have been introducing my 6-year-old daughters to this world of athletic celebration. This summer has been pivotal for both of my daughters’ athletic and physical development. They are not the kind of kids who just pick up a bat and hit a home run. They don’t do monkey bars. When they took a soccer class they spent the entire time inside the goal net pretending it was a spaceship. But, this summer at camp something changed. They want to do better. They want to be a part of the team.
When they came home the other day they were bursting with excitement because color war had broken out at camp. They were fired up and so eager to compete it made me stare at them and wonder where these two warriors had come from. We sat down to watch the women’s gymnastics final and they watched intensely. When Alicia Sacramone fell – and then got right back on the beam, my girls gasped and wanted to rewind it. Its one thing for someone to tell you to persevere – its another thing to see it in action. The next day my daughter came home and told me that her team had won the crab walk relay. Crab walking, not an official Olympic sport but integral to the color war games, involves making yourself into a table on your hands and feet with your stomach facing up and then walking backwards in that position. (Try that Michael Phelps) She told me that she kept falling over but that she propped herself up and kept on going because she knew not to give up and let down her team. Olympics lessons at work!
I knew when I married an NBA fanatic that sports would be a part of my life. Just like my husband knew that marrying an ex-ballet dancer would make the arts a part of his. Now the trick is taking the best of both worlds and making them a part of our daughters’ lives. Maybe that’s the real appeal of the Olympics – its all of the grace and artistry of the human form with the power, anguish and triumph of the human spirit. And that’s the kind of lesson that every child should learn.
Original NYC Moms Blog Post