I’m not a sports person – nothing against sports, I just sort of forget it even exists, most of the time. But, when the Olympics rolled around, I felt like we’d all get something out of watching, so we’ve been tuning in catch as we can for the past few days, and this experience of watching the Olympics with our 3 year old girl has turned out far more important than I expected.
A few reasons why the Olympics are turning into something special for my family:
The Opening Ceremonies
From the first moment of the Opening Ceremonies, my little girl was on full alert and bursting with questions about what the performers were doing. It occurred to me that this was her – and probably many children’s – first experience with conceptual performance art. We take her to art galleries and children’s performances, but it’s rare to see theatre on this scale. I tried to answer all of her questions and point out interesting things for her to notice. I thought it was a splendid example of beauty, spectacle, vibrancy, color, metaphor and message. The more children see art, the more they can appreciate it, and this show was something special.
Women in Sport
I have a sporty, sporty little girl. Soccer class is her favorite hour of the week, and ever since about 2-1/2 when a lot of little girls started enrolling in dance class, it has not been unusual for her to be the only female amongst a dozen boys. In daycare, she doesn’t look twice at the dolls, instead rushing out to the playground to scale the climbing equipment. I couldn’t possibly be less athletic, so I know she didn’t get it from me, but she is just wired for activity, coordination, speed, and competition. As she gets older and more aware of gender roles, I don’t want her to lose her love of sports, just because it’s not what most of the other girls are doing. I am already seeing the first signs of it creeping home – “Arrabella said that I’m a boy,” she said to me the other day. And then a few days later she started crying, “I don’t want to be super. I want to be beautiful.” My heart broke, and I got angry, but mostly because I know this is just the beginning of her internalizing this stupid message.
So, having all of these examples of the different sports that women can play and excel at is a moment I am not going to miss. I know the women in sports have spoken out about not wanting their physical appearance discussed, which I understand and I don’t think the media should use it as a talking point, but frankly, with my little daughter starting already at 3-1/2 to get the message that she can’t be both sporty and beautiful, I am going to say how strong, fast, determined, and beautiful these women are. My girl is beautiful, and I don’t want her to think that she has to choose one or the other.
Last night, we watched Catherine Skinner as she captured her gold medal for trap shooting, and it did not go past my kid that she was receiving hugs and smiles from her fellow competitors. “Why are they hugging her? Are they happy?,” she asked. 3 year olds aren’t particularly known for being magnanimous losers (or winners, nah-nah-nah-nah-nah), so don’t think I was letting that teachable moment float by!
“It’s kind to congratulate the winner, even if you wanted to win. You should be nice, even when you win. Blah, blah, blah.” I don’t think that this is automatically going to turn her into a pre-school statesman, but she got the picture all on her own, and I trust that we’ll continue to see good examples of sportsmanlike behavior.
Family Together Time
We do a lot of activities together, but it’s rare for us to find something that we can all agree on to watch. Heck, even my husband and I are rarely interested in watching the same program, never mind the tiny tyrant’s usual demands that our single TV be perpetually tuned to ABC Kids. So, to snuggle up together in front of something that we can all appreciate is a fleeting moment to embrace.
When your international family has three teams to cheer for, it’s even more fun. Go Team U.S.A.! Go Serbia! Go Team Australia! We’ll be watching, and learning from you, our excellent athletes.