Friday, August 12, 2016

Olympics, Belly Buttons, and Life Lessons

Since the start of the Olympics, my daughters have become obsessed with beach volleyball. Mostly, because they think it is hysterical that they are "in their underwear" as my four year old said. "Nobody wants to see their belly buttons, right Mommy?" she asked the first time she saw them in the sand.

They giggle hysterically while watching it. Last night, after getting out of the bath and before getting into pajamas, my two year old started acting like she was hitting a volley ball. It's the new thing to do while naked, apparently.

Asides from giggling about belly buttons, my girls also noticed something else about the players. "Mommy! Look!" my four year old exclaimed in complete awe, "She fell down IN THE SAND and she got right back up! She didn't even cry!"

"Yeah," my two year old agreed. "No crying!"

It always surprises me the difference in how children view the world. I honestly hadn't even registered the fall.

The NBC newscasters can tell us all about the athletes strict training regimens, the obstacles and injuries they've overcome, and their extreme perseverance, but the visual image that stuck with my kids is the athlete falling down and getting right back into the game. They zone out during the inspirational cut aways, but are somehow inspired by falling athelets. It makes sense, I suppose. Early morning gym workouts mean nothing to them. But falling in the sand? Total connection there.

Our Olympic viewing has now become a constant stream of "She fell!" "He fell!" I SEE A BELLY BUTTON!" "She fell!"

Then they act it out. One of them will fall down (laughing hysterically) and will get right back up. "I"m up! I'm ready to play!" she'll say.
"I SEE YOUR BELLY BUTTON!" the other one will scream.

My facebook feed is filled with videos of how the athletes overcame obstacles and ways they can inspire us in our own lives. As adults we're in awe of these athletes and are constantly looking for ways we can copy their dedication and determination. It makes sense our kids would want to do the same. We just need to bring the conversation to their level.

While it's so important to talk with our kids about how hard these athletes worked and the grit and perseverance it took to get them to the Olympics, that is still a fairly intangible concept for our little ones. But we can point out in-the-moment perseverance that will give our kids a visual image of these grand concepts we want them to demonstrate themselves.

While watching swimming we've talked a lot about how tired they must be. "OH MY GOODNESS! They are turning at the wall again!! They must be so tired! But they aren't stopping! Wow!!"

We've paused the DVR after the swimmers shake hands with each other at the end and talked about how they don't even know each other but they are still shaking hands and saying good job.

We've talked about how those gymnasts are nervous just standing their, waiting for their turn. We look at their faces and talk about how we can tell how nervous they are. It must feel like the first day of school for them. It's OK to be nervous. Even Olympians are nervous.

We talk about how much fun they are having too. They are tired, nervous, and keep falling down, but they are still having fun! Wow! With all those feelings they are still smiling and laughing. Falling down didn't make the fun go away. Being nervous didn't mean everything needed to end. They kept going and now they are so happy.

Hopefully, even after the games are over we'll be able to refer back to these conversations when things come up in our own lives. Saying "You have to work hard at gymnastic class now so you can be like Simone!" probably won't have much of an impact on my kids, but saying, "I know you are nervous, just like Simone looked. What did she do next? She took a deep breath and then tried her best. Think you can try that? Let's do it!"

I read that Michael Phelps' mother had a visual cue she would give him when he was having trouble with sportsmanship as a child. For older kids that would be a great tidbit to share and apply in the moment.

Sometimes I worry that these blog posts are what my kids will one day bring to their therapists to say "She even wrote publicly about how she tortured us. We couldn't even enjoy the Olympics!" So, daughters 20 years years from now- think about the money I'm saving you. Just printing this out and giving it to your therapist will save so much time in you having to explain it. Right?

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