Olympics brings out the competitor in mom

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This year I am really enjoying watching the 2014 Winter Olympics. It’s quite ironic that the more I watch Olympic coverage, the more I am personally lazy, laying on the couch and passing judgment on the Olympians from the comfort of my supine (and usually snacking) position.

Shaun White competing in the half pipe of snowboarding (Photo is a YouTube screen shot)
Shaun White competing in the half pipe of snowboarding
(Photo is a YouTube screen shot)

The universal Olympic quest for excellence is somehow translating to my personal life, as well. I said to my husband, following him as he staggered under a huge armload of wood for our fireplace: “Can I just quickly ask: would you say that this effort is your personal best? And a follow-up question, quickly, if I may; how would you compare tonight’s log count to last night’s log count?”

To my fourteen year old son, as he played a video game in the den, I intoned, “You need to dig deep and find your inspiration — what drives you – what ignites the fire within?”

He squinted at me. “Uh, beating Brendan at this game and then going to Chili’s with the guys for lunch?”

I shrug. “I doubt you’ll qualify, if that’s what you are bringing.” I wrap my robe tighter like a disappointed coach and stalk out of the room. How am I to work with this? How am I to produce a champion without the fire within?

The athletes’ ability to make everything look effortless, to the point where I think that I can somehow compete – at anything — greatly impresses me. As I held on to the back of the couch and did squats in my pajamas, I said to my husband, “Look at the ski jumping. Basically it is going down the track, and then taking off, and then lying almost flat over your skis, and then sticking the landing. Why couldn’t I do that?” My husband answered, “Because you have got to go down the track, take off, lay flat over your skis and stick the landing. And didn’t you cry on the bunny slope and drop your poles off the ski lift when we went to Look Mountain?”

Photo is a YouTube screen shot
Photo is a YouTube screen shot

Yes, I did cry on the mountain, but that’s because my lesson instructor, who was a mere 20-year old, kept calling me “ma’am” – as in, “Ma’am, are you all right? Ma’am, can I help you get up?”

We are really enjoying Olympic hockey in our household, because our fourteen year old has played hockey for years and here in New England hockey is huge (as evidenced by the disturbing amount of human babies in Boston being named “Bruin” every year).

For the most part I understand hockey (my son’s hockey games, for me, are mainly a chance to catch up with my friends while I keep one eye out for his jersey, number 9), but hockey lingo is still hit-or-miss for me. I have developed a strategy for that — I say everything a half a beat behind the most knowledgeable parent in the stands. For example, if a dad grabs his head, and says, “Whoa, a yard sale in front of the net!” I echo this loudly … a second later. It makes me sound knowledgeable, and reinforces his comment, so we both win, I figure.

Watching Olympic hockey, I employ the same technique. When my husband yells, “I don’t believe it – he went five-hole with that shot!” I time it out so that before he can even finish his sentence, I am saying with gusto – “No! I don’t believe it! A five-holer! Stunning!” (“Stunning” is more an ice-skating adjective that a hockey adjective, but I gotta be me. Except when I’m copying everyone else.)

As much as I love the Olympics, sometimes a gal just has to watch American Idol. The other night the Olympics was on the TV and I said, “Hey guys, do you think we can watch American Idol for a few? It’s Group Round.”

The USA Hockey team celebrating a goal. (Photo is a YouTube screen shot)
The USA Hockey team celebrating a goal.
(Photo is a YouTube screen shot)

Well, you would have thought I had suggested strangling kittens, as I was met with shocked and disappointed stares from my husband and son. “What?” I said, pointing to the TV. It’s curling! I do that in the kitchen every night scraping food off the floor!” (Hey, hold on a minute – I am sort of an Olympian!”) So, I casually disappeared upstairs, to watch the American Idol judges hold their own event called “crushing all dreams.”

So, thank you, Olympics, for bringing out amazing feats of strength, endurance, and perseverance. (And by that I mean the spectators at home, living through Bob Costas’ eye infections.) But really, Olympians, you are the best of us, reminding us of what our bodies and minds can do with training, experience, and the will to win. I’ll see you in 2016 — I think curling is my event. I can even offer to bring my own broom!