parenting olympians

My girls rocking their 2012 London Games onesies nearly two years ago.
My girls rocking their 2012 London Games onesies nearly two years ago.

I am unabashedly obsessed with the Olympics. Winter or Summer, it doesn’t matter. I love watching people achieve their dreams, compete for their countries, and doing their parents, always featured in NBC’s heart-wrenching human interest stories, proud. The summer after the girls were born, pinned to a couch under sleeping or eating babies, I watched a lot of the London Summer Games. This year, my only couch time is after those babies are in bed, but I’ve been watching quite a bit of the evening coverage as well. (If you’re also into watching the Olympics, follow me on twitter and join in on the live tweet action after 7 pm– just make sure to use a hashtag so your friends who are less obsessed can filter your Olympic tweets from their streams.)

One thing that stands out about the Olympics are the ads. Pretty much every spot you see that isn’t for a car or truck features an Olympian of some kind. Proctor and Gamble have been running a series of ads called “Because of Mom” in which athletes thank their mothers for helping them achieve their Olympic dreams. I have no real beef with people celebrating their mothers or motherhood. Motherhood is great! It’s just that…you bet your sweet bippy that if my girls ever make it to the Olympics (I’m thinking 2 man bobsled, maybe?), they’ll have their dad to thank as much as their mom. Because they are blessed to have an amazing dad, and I am blessed to have an amazing coparent. My husband and I are both blessed with amazing and involved dads, too.

I mean, it’s really no wonder I grew up to marry a man who turns out to be an amazing dad, because involved parenting is just what I expected based on what I grew up with. My dad, a doctor, but also a scientist, came into my science classes with a little red wagon full of props and gave talks worthy of Bill Nye. He worked odd shifts, so he drove a lot of carpools. He created elaborate treasure hunts for us with riddle clues. He got me into nerdy stuff like Star Trek and the Civilization computer games. He got me through high school math and science, both of which were hard for me, with intense, one-on-one homework help, complete with antics like “the ribosome dance,” which I will never forget, ever.

I’m willing to bet at least a few Olympians had dads like my dad and my husband. Unfortunately, P&G isn’t talking about them. I say unfortunately, because just as I mentioned in my “inspiration” post, kids need to see normal, everyday people as role models– how can people who may not have amazing dads in their life grow up to be or expect to co-parent with amazing dads if we don’t see dads being normal and amazing in our lives?

I do want to shout out a company getting it right. I loved this Frosted Flakes ad featuring one of our women ski jumpers (first year in the Olympics for their sport after decades of fighting for equality!), Sarah Hendrickson and her dad:  Sarah clearly has a dad like mine. They even have the same taste in names for their daughters!

Meanwhile, if you go looking for a P&G ad featuring a dad, you’ll find this, from Tide: 

DADMOM? REALLY? A dad who stays home with the kids and takes care of the house isn’t Mr. Mom. He’s not a dadmom. He’s just a dad. He’s parenting. He’s caretaking. He’s not stepping outside his gender or being anything less than a man– a man who has and cares for a family. It’s like when I hear people say a dad is babysitting his own children. Nope. That’s parenting, folks. People of all gender identities and expressions can do it.

P&G claims to be a “proud sponsor of moms.” Well, sponsors usually pay people, rather than expecting to be paid, P&G. And I’m not buying the gendered view of parenthood that you’re selling.

I also have similar issues with their vision of disability: 

While on the one hand, I love that they’re running ads featuring athletes with disabilities that showcase them as athletes, using the same visual style and soundtrack as the able-bodied athletes, they lost me at the final tagline. I’m not one of the world’s toughest moms just because my daughter has a disability. As I said on twitter when I first saw the ad, I think most people are as tough as their circumstances require them to be. We all rise to the occasion. If you “don’t know how I do it,” it’s just because it hasn’t been required of you (yet). Just as it doesn’t take a special person to love someone with special needs (because they are no more inherently easy or difficult to love than any other person), it doesn’t take a tough parent to parent a child with a disability. Because you just parent them, because they’re your child.

If someday Claire is a Paralympian, she’ll be thanking both of her parents. And she certainly won’t be calling us any tougher than anyone else.

Does God root root root for the home team?

Image: NY Jets vs. Buffalo, Oct 2009 - 02, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from yourdon's photostream

One topic of conversation that frequently comes up between my sports-fan husband and me (particularly now that his favorite team, the Denver Broncos, drafted he of the Bible verses on his cheeks, Tim Tebow) is the role of faith in sports.  We’re both often bothered by the theology of prayer on the pitch (or field, or court, or whatever, but the alliteration of pitch just worked well there)– what does it say to nonbelievers, for example, if you pray over the loudspeaker, or even in the locker room, for no one to get injured, and then someone does get injured?  I remember standing on the sidelines in my band uniform, waiting to perform at halftime at a high school football game, when a classmate of mine was tackled hard, breaking his femur so badly the end of it was literally stuck in the field.  Was that horrific injury a problem of faith? Did that player not have enough? Did the person who prayed before the game not pray the right words? Was God rooting for the other team?

This morning my husband emailed me a link to this article, “When did God become a sports fan?” from CNN’s website.  He said: “interesting read.  won’t learn anything, but interesting that CNN’s talking about it.” Very interesting indeed!

From the get, the very idea that God would be helping a MMA fighter win stuck in my craw.  Really? The God who designed our very bodies? You think that God would be fond of a sport that involves beating the very crap out of someone? That that God would be proud to be credited with your victory as your opponent is left so groggy he has to be led out of the ring?  Call me a hippie pacifist if you want, but I just don’t get the idea that God’s a fan of MMA fighting.

Beyond my issues with violence, though, the idea that God picks sides really confuses me.  As my friend Ryan Byrd blogged today: God sends good things to both the evil and the righteous.  He doesn’t pick teams on whom to bestow blessing, because God is interested in blessing everyone.

I also particularly liked this point from the CNN piece:

Tom Krattenmaker, author of “Onward Christian Athletes,” says many evangelical athletes who publicly thank Jesus for victory have nothing to say about other issues such as the pervasive use of steroids in sports or racial discrimination against aspiring minority coaches.

“It’s an incomplete Christianity that’s brought to bear on sports, ” Krattenmaker says. “They are blind and silent on the larger moral issues that vex the sports sector.”

It would actually be really refreshing to hear a Christian athlete chime in on one of these more major moral issues and how their faith informs their views on those issues, rather than simply weighing in on whether or not they think God is on their side when they win or lose.

Ultimately, I think I come down on the side of devout Catholic and Seattle Mariners baseball player Mike Sweeney, who, as mentioned in the article, is not a fan of the sort of loud-mouthed “God made us win” rhetoric we so often hear from players of faith.  Sweeney says:

“If I’m facing Andy Pettitte on the Yankees and I’m praying for a home run, and he’s praying for a strikeout, I don’t think the result is going to show who has greater faith…It’s easy being a Christian when you’re hitting .345, but you let me know who you really are when you’re hitting .245 and going through the valley…Saint Francis of of Assisi says preach the gospel at all times and, when necessary, use words. That’s something I’ve tried to live my whole life.”

I’m reminded of several of my favorite tennis players, like Roger Federer, who epitomize grace on the court win or lose. I have no idea if Roger is a Christian, but his gracious attitude toward his opponents shines in every single interview I see with him. Those kinds of things speak to me much louder than a point to the heavens after a big score or Bible verses embedded in eyeblack.

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