Friday, February 19, 2010

Back -stage parent

I have Olympic fever.

Or is it malaise.

When I competed in the Olympics, a member of the first ever U.S. Womens Olympic Snowboard Team, I feigned nonchalance. I was afraid to face the true, hyper-bloated weight of it all. And, surprise surprise, I crashed and burned, as they say.

Now, as a spectator, as a washed up former athlete, sitting home with her children, I am vicariously riveted to certain people who come to the Olympic games knowing exactly what they want and exactly how to get it.

Lindsey Vonn comes to mind.

It's not every day when an athlete comes to the Olympics expected to win, and actually does. Which is why I am so impressed, truly intrigued by, and, yes, envious of, Lindsey Vonn. Dig a bit deeper and it might actually be her Chiclet white teeth I'm envious of. I don't know.

I was interested to read that she has essentially been raised on a strict diet of dangling Olympic carrots. Her parents had a plan for her. She apparently agreed with the plan, starting at age 3, and, step by step, they followed it through.

That baffles me as a parent, and it baffles me as an athlete. I don't come from that kind of ambitious, single-minded stock, I guess. I skied because it was fun. I snowboarded because it was even more fun. The Olympics was an unexpected by-product of blindly following my bliss.

I don't have any regrets, really. Just the occasional questioning, what if? What if I had had the chance to start snowboarding as a child, rather than a lost, 21 year old woman?

What if the Olympics had been in the picture from day one, rather than popping into the screen right when I was contemplating retirement? What if?

And what do I want for my children? Despite the amazing sight of my oldest daughter's Greek Goddess-like athletic body, and my frequent visions of her in full hockey gear, with USA emblazoned on the chest, or speeding down an icy mountain in a speed suit, I don't think I could ever have the discipline or zeal to "orchestrate" her rise to stardom in any sport. Or could I?

I'm curious about Vonn's four other siblings. Were they given the same opportunities to succeed? Did they have to put their passions on the back burner? Are they bitter? How does that all work?

I can't answer any of that right now. But since Esther is already 8, the age Vonn was already spending summers at on-snow training camps, it's probably unlikely.

I have to say I was kind of disappointed to read that Lindsey Vonn doesn't eat dessert. That is one of the things I remember as being a major bonus of all that working out and that ridiculously efficient lean muscle mass that came along with it. I ate what I wanted, and didn't really think about it. It made putting up with all that lactic acid worthwhile.

Yet another thing that sets me apart from Lindsey Vonn, I guess. And perhaps the reason Sports Illustrated never approached me to do a swimsuit issue. Not that I would have. I don't think. Or would I have?

Regardless of how I feel about these amazingly gifted female athletes being compelled to prove their femininity every step of the way--I may ski like one, but I'm not a man, see my tits, see my ass, see my airbrushed thighs, digitally streamlined to avoid appearing too unladylike-- I still felt a rush of longing, and a bolt of inspiration when Esther announced, after watching just a few women come down the Olympic downhill course at 60 mph, "That's what I want to do."

Oh you can, Essie, you can. You can do anything. Anything.

More about my Olympic distraction here at BabyCenter.


Brooke G. said...

I have to tell you that as I was watching the women snowboarders last night, I did think of you!!! What memories this all must bring back for you! It is exciting and Lindsay Vonn is amazing. What I don't understand is how can a parent push their child to do that particular sport. It is SOOO dangerous. I could hardly watch her go down that hill at such fast speeds and I don't even know her. If that were my daughter, I don't think I could bear it! I was cringing the WHOLE time. Yikes. But then again, I am kindof a wimp!

mooserbeans said...

I have the same thought about most child prodigies. I don't think that I myself have the discipline to push/encourage/direct my children. I have more of a "let them be kids and they'll find their passion" approach. At least that's what I tell myself, but really it's I'm too scattered to be organized enough.

Emma said...

Yeah that hot-housing approach is pretty intense! I guess it worked out for her, but there must be lots of other kids who just burn out, despite all the parental "guidance". Even if Lindsay did agree to it at 3... well, when I was 3 I wanted to be an Indian (ie, a Native American- political correctness hadn't appeared yet, lol) and if that didn't work out, a bus driver.

Betsy said...

I love it, Emma. I was an Indian every Halloween for year after year when I was a kid. My favorite book was Little Runner of the Long House. I always wanted to be an Indian.

Betsy said...

I love it, Emma. I was an Indian every Halloween for year after year when I was a kid. My favorite book was Little Runner of the Long House. I always wanted to be an Indian.

Karin (an alien parisienne) said...

I have not been able to catch most of the Olympics, which is a weird thing for me as I have been quite dedicated to watching both summer and winter Games in years past -- really since I was about eight years old! That's a few decades of Olympic-watching now. I miss watching. I think what has stopped me this time (in 2008 it was that I was in northern Ontario at a lake in the woods with no TV) is, first, being in another country and not really knowing how to check the schedules, etc. for viewing. It does not seem to be the TV-dominating thing it is on NBC in the States, with tons of coverage and advertising and so on. We don't have ESPN or Canal+ or anything like that, either. That, and I live with someone who is maybe not as into watching either. We are pretty apathetic, lol.

Anyways, this is the closest I have gotten into reading about the winter Games and I enjoyed the post because of that.

I also love the various thoughts you bring up in this post, from a bit of envy of Lindsey to being confounded at the programatic nature of her training and life experiences around sport from an early age.

I used to be really super athletic as a kid but never had the kind of drive or ambition to make it further than just having fun, even though I had dreams in my head about being a competitive gymnast or skiier as a kid. Yeah, if my life would have "tweaked" just a little this way or that, who knows? I might have seen you up on the slopes as a competitor! I realized, though, after I blew out my knee in a martial arts class at 21, that all of that was past. The dreams would just remain dreams. In fact, I pretty much stopped most athletic activity after that and after life pulled me other directions in my 20s.

I guess I can understand the "what if?" part a lot, is what I am getting at. I have thought about that kind of stuff a lot.

I hope for my own kids, whatever happens, whatever they choose to do, that they will be happy doing it. It sounds like you were, getting into sports as you did, and that you want the same for your kids, too. I really do think that seeking happiness is the goal, not necessarily being the best, unless that is what brings happiness to someone, right?

I hope that for Esther all of her dreams can come true! :)

Thank you for another thoughtful post. I am off to start some lunch for the kiddos, but hope to be by MOMformation in just a little while to catch up there, too!

Betsy said...

Brooke: What about skeleton? Their chins are six inches from the ice. Nuts.
Karin: I've been watching it on live stream from French TV on my laptop. Pretty much every night from 8-12. For what it's worth.

Heidi said...

You may think you're washed up, but you commented and you're a perfect stranger to me. Yet, you're so compassionate. You surprised me. Most people tell me it's what I deserved, being a single Mom. How DARE I bear a child out of wedlock? (I delete those comments.) I admire you, Ms. Shaw!