I'm not sure I understand nor condone the "momification" of the Olympics. You know what I mean; major sponsors lining up to thank mom, and begrudgingly, dad, who drove Evan out to the ski hill every day, went to the ice skating rink every morning at 5 am with Emma, and hand knit the very scarf they have on their neck, under their team jackets, at the medal ceremonies.
While there's no denying that the athletes require the support and pocketbooks of their families to succeed, I think this is just the latest in the biggest sporting event in the world... no not the Olympics themselves, but the Parenting Olympics, where judgement is as fast and as biased as a conspiracy theorist's opinion of an international figure skating judge. With the closing of the 22nd Winter Olympics, I feel quite qualified to speak on behalf of those of us haven't so far, and likely won't ever, produce an Olympic athlete. My oldest child is 22, as old as the Olympics, as everyone knows that moms age four years for every one, once they have kids. Sort of like dog years, but more like slog years.
Are these Gold Medal Moms and Dads better than the average mom or dad? Could your child have been an Olympic athlete themselves if not for your selfish devotion to having an adult life of your own, a successful career and an aversion to spending 14 hours a day in a sporting venue? Shame on you.
I find it especially compelling that many of these parents are the first in the Helicopter Generation to send their 19 and 20 year olds to the Olympics. Those same parents who fought to provide their children with trophies just for showing up. Surely they in fact are being bad parents in allowing their youngsters to compete for a medal that states emphatically that they either win or lose; something this score-free soccer game era of parents shies away from.
For some of these poor athletes, it may be the first time they don't get some piece of hardware for coming in 4th, 5th, or 19th. My own 11-year-old son was aghast that ice pairs skaters are not required to wear helmets, what with the women seemingly being hurled across the ice in wild abandon. (I shoved my hand over his mouth as I was afraid someone out there in Safety Helmet Land would look up from their successful Tobogganing Helmet Deployment Action Plan, shove aside their Soccer Strategy and begin drafting legislation in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics.)
The real challenge for parents is determining whether their child truly has the talent and the drive to get to the Olympics, or if they're just trying to get out of doing their Grade 10 trigonometry homework by heading out to the terrain park. Most parents push academic over athletic when push comes to shove. When the daughter you've been driving to ballet class every Saturday for 12 years tells you she wants to focus on the history of dance as her $20,000 a year university major, you might pause and point out the successful engineers you know.
Likewise the child whose artwork you insisted on framing, making into calendars and pasting up in collages for your wall, decides he'd like to go to art school in Paris, instead of following you into the family accounting business. Or the kid who insists that barreling down the neighbourhood ski hill headfirst is a better use of his time than learning the Pythagorean theory.
For all the medal worthy athletes who made it to the Olympics on the backs of their parents, there are other honourable unmentioned "kids" who are studying their French just a little bit harder before they go a game, or writing a thoughtful essay for English class after spending two hours in a sweaty gym; they have the moms and dads who also need recognition. I'll clear some room on my daughter's trophy shelf for one, thanks.
This article was originally run in Post City Magazines.
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