I have to write about this before the two weeks is up. Is there anyone else out there for whom the Olympics bring a sense of...inferiority? I mean, I don't want to appear unpatriotic or anything, but there is something about watching these young Olympians that makes me feel so dadgum average.
I must say, my relationship with the games didn't start out so well, my parents went to the Los Angeles games in the summer of 1984 and when they came back it was ALL we heard about for EVER...I mean, I know it's the experience of a lifetime and everything, but still. Everything we talked about for the rest of the summer and subsequent year had something to do with the Olympics. We even had to look at their photo album of the trip in order to get our allowances.
Then in 2002 I was put to bed while pregnant with the twins, the whole figure skating pairs debacle happened and it was the ONLY thing on T.V. So my love-hate relationship with the Olympics has gone on for many years, and this year is no exception. I felt completely guilty last night as we switched back and forth from the Olympics to American Idol. I even caught my Mom cowering in the back of the family room, sneaking an episode of the Bachelor: On the Wings of Love off of Hulu on her computer.
We have been especially into the Vancouver games because our kids are so interested. "I think maybe I want to be an Olympian when I get older," one of them mused after watching a skiing event. Is it squelching their dreams to respond with, "Oh honey, there's no way you'll ever be in the Olympics." I mean, let's be realistic. It's never going to happen. But you can't tell your kid this right? So I responded diplomatically with a, "Hmmm wow, wouldn't that be exciting."
But imagine being the parent who says, "Yes! Go for it! Let's change your entire life to take a chance at the Olympic dream." You see famous Olympians of our time and the stories of their families, which almost always revolve around a devoted parent who remained as committed as their child was on the road to success. Early practices, tutors, private coaches, the whole deal. I struggle with once weekly ballet class, and summer swim team. I can't even fathom the kind of commitment it takes to produce an Olympian. How much of this is raw talent and how much is utter devotion? Is your kid a total dud if she wants to come home from school every day and play in the backyard?
The class I am taking this semester is on assessment of young children. We talked last night about assessment instruments aka, the tests done on these little guys to look for developmental delays, measure intelligence, vocabulary, and look for those who are gifted. The most interesting part of this conversation to me was that parents are often disappointed when told their child has scored in the 50th percentile, which, by definition is average. I can be happy with average, but put a number on it and I might feel differently. You never hear about anyone bragging that their child has scored in the 60th percentile on the Weschler Preschool and Primary Intelligence test. The only ones I ever hear about are "Off the charts" when truly, 60th percentile is a perfectly "Normal" way to be.
My kids don't have to be brilliant, or have a special gift, and I am totally happy for them to be "average kids." But Olympics make me feel a little like I shouldn't settle for 50th percentile. My parents are visiting this week and my Dad has said, "I'll watch any events that aren't scored" So we have stuck to the timed ski races and bobsled. I guess he prefers the black and white part of timed events. Either you get there fast enough or you don't.
When we had one of our daughters "tested" because we were concerned about her development, I was relieved and happy to know she was "Average." But what's with this word having such a stigma attached to it? When I looked it up in my thesaurus, the synonyms were: common, mediocre, moderate, intermediate. The more positive synonyms were: ordinary, regular, standard, mainstream, and I have to include my personal favorites: garden-variety, run-of-the-mill and dime-a-dozen. So how come this isn't OK? Am I a slacker to be OK with regular? Normal or typical are good, right? Well, they are fine with me until the Olympics come around and make me feel... well, ordinary.
It would be interesting to measure these Olympians on some other qualities like relationships, or book smarts to see if they've got the all around package. I found myself sort of annoyed this week when I found out that Lindsay Vonn is married. So not only is she gorgeous and hot and an Olympic medalist, she also has time for a relationship. The real kicker to me is that Apollo Ono managed to win Dancing With the Stars during his hiatus between Olympics. Where's MY special talent? I'm not like our friend Will who has an amazing gift for music, or my Dad who played college football. Most of the time I'm OK with this, except for when I watch the Olympics and wonder if I am just a slacker, or if it's acceptable to settle on average, or typical.
I think I have made up my mind, though. I came up with proof that average can be thrilling. I have a photo from the summer of 2008 (which I can't seem to find.) My daughters had just finished with their first swim meet, and stood in all their glory holding up their ribbons that say PARTICIPANT, and they're delighted, so that seems like an exceptional accomplishment. So here are my wonderfully average kids, enjoying a run-of-the mill ordinary summer afternoon swim meet, and that feels like success to me...