Friday, August 3, 2012

Olympics: Reality TV Starring the Parents

"If parenting were an Olympic sport, this year’s games would probably see several world records broken." Global Post

"London 2012 is proving to be a family affair, with parents' reactions to their children competing as big a spectacle as sports" Time Magazine

Am I the only one wondering if the summer Olympics should be subtitled "the year of the parent?" Now, don't get me wrong, seeing the Proctor and Gamble ad that lovingly, brilliantly instills in our minds that each Olympian is someone's child made me tear up a bit - the first time I saw it. Seeing the ad over and over during prime time got a little old. Especially when NBC's coverage seemed much more interested in covering the parent's reactions up in the stands then giving more time to the athletic competition. Call me crazy, but I would rather have seen some of the Chinese women gymnastics team perform than getting cozy with USA's fab five's parents. The next morning, turn on the TV and there they are again - this time on the Today show with their gold medal winning daughters. One of the parental units reactions in the stands have gone viral over YouTube. It's gone beyond just giving the audience a sense of the athlete's personal story and triumph - now winning is a family affair. It's reality TV filled with parental angst.

Why am I chewing on this?

About fifteen years ago I was standing in a dance studio watching my daughter take a ballet class. It was a new studio for us and there was a fairly serious vibe in the place that promoted creating dancers that would go on to have careers as ballerinas. Not why we were there. My daughter just liked to dance.

Standing next to me was a well coiffed, manicured woman with tight lips and a gleam in her eye that was just a bit maniacal. I didn't realize it at the time - but she was the Scary Helicopter Parent dead set on making sure that her daughter became the next greatest ballerina. She was talking with a friend about how her daughter had asked to play soccer with her friends and she (the mother) had made it clear that there was no time in her daughter's schedule to play some sport just to be with her friends from school. Besides, within a few years, the girl would leave that school, start working with a tutor and be in dance classes all day. Her friends would be with her, here at the studio, studying in the back room in between dance classes.

I edged away even as I heard her launch into a scathing critique of all the other girls in the class and how she was going to talk to her precious child about paying better attention.

Part of me was horrified - another part fascinated. Is that what dedication looks like?

Through soccer, basketball, softball, baseball, and volleyball - I've met this woman in the shape of moms and dads on the sidelines. I've also met the loving parents of dynamic athletes who are somewhat bewildered by the drive and dedication of their child.   What I liked about those bewildered parents was that they knew they were the pit crew. They did what was needed to support their child's drive - but it was about the kid, not the parent's sacrifice or determination.

Ultimately, that child either has the talent or not to 'go for the gold'. Is it just their hard work, talent and abilities that defines them? Nope - it's also about the hard work and dedication of the parent. This is what we celebrate here in the United States: you can't separate a child's success from the parent.  And our media sources are simply cementing that in place. More helicopter parents are on their way.

Okay, fine - however screwed up or enlightened that might be - I would just like to see more competition coverage and less parental performances.

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