I have tried this week to interest Princess and Birdie in watching some of the Olympic competition. Why not, right? After all, the Olympics only happens every four years, and there are some great lessons in sportsmanship and dedication to be learned there. Even if the girls got totally addicted to watching the games, it would all be over in a few days, and life would go on as normal (no possibility of fixating on it they way they did with the Pocahontas movie or Sonic X ). I tuned into the equestrian event, thinking the horses might tickle their fancy-- not even a flicker of interest. We also tried swimming, water polo, volleyball, and gymnastics, all with flagging enthusiasm.
After many attempts at watching many different sports, Birdie finally asked me "I don't understand. Why do these people practice these sports so much, Mom?! Wouldn't it be better to know that you are the best at a sport naturally, without all the practice?"
I explained that part of the pride of winning an Olympic medal is knowing how hard the athlete worked to be able to win it. The medal is the ultimate reward for lots of sweaty, hard work and dedication to master their sport for their country.
"O-kaaaaayy, but how useful is it to be the best ping pong player or the best horse-rider person anyway? Don't these people have other things to do?!"
She makes a very valid point. Barring some serious product endorsements, which you would only get if you won a medal or ten, you are seriously limiting your grown-up career options by focusing so intently on one thing. It works for some people, for others, not so much.
Wistfully, Birdie declared "If only reading was an Olympic sport. I already practice that all the time. I'd definitely win the GOLD MEDAL!"
I'm not really sure why, but this got me to thinking (I know-- shocking, right?! She thinks! What is this world coming to!)... Except for their obvious lack of athleticism, my kids have many similarities to Olympic athletes. I heard you giggling, but it's true! The similarities all just happen to be mental similarities. Bear with me here.
How Olympic Athletes are Like My Children:
- Both have the ability to intensely focus on a single activity, often to the detriment of all other things in their lives. Many times friends and peers often don't understand this intensity because they have never experienced anything like it themselves.
- Both have the ability to tune out a large group of people to reduce their own anxiety. They can stay completely inside their own headspace when necessary, even with thousands of other people in the same room.
- Both are very goal oriented and driven when it comes to things they love. Once fixated on something, it is hard to steer them in any other direction.
- Both are overly concerned with perfection, and are therefore incredibly hard on themselves. They feel they have little room for error, and strive to control their environment and themselves to obtain what they feel is perfection.
- Both are insanely enthusiastic and supportive of others with the same shared interest. Have you ever watched the Olympic swim team cheer for their teammates during races? Have you watched my Birdie discuss Pokemon with one of her buddies, or Princess discuss princessy things with another girlie-girl enthusiast? They could all teach the greatest professional cheerleaders a thing or two.
The realization of these likenesses led me to another crazy thought: what if I could use these Olympic star qualities in my children to their advantage? What if there were some way that I could train that laser-like focus of theirs onto practicing the life skills they need? What if the thought of earning a gold medal would be enough to get my kids to do these things more enthusiastically?
And then I thought, naaaah! If all the other things I have tempted, bribed, and threatened them with hasn't worked, then a gold freakin' medal ain't gonna work either! If there was even the slightest chance it would work, I would already have my scrap gold jewelry ready to be melted down and turned into medallions.
Just for giggles, though, I had to consider what I, as the Conductor of the Crazy Train, would deem medal-worthy accomplishments for my little peeps. What major getting-by-in-life skills are on my must-do checklist for Princess and Birdie? Here goes...
The Crazy Train Olympic Medal Events:
- Maintaining appropriate eye contact and body posture-- Having a conversation with Birdie's back, or while Princess is checking out your boobs, zipper, earrings, or nostrils is damn-near impossible. I would take fleeting eye contact followed by looking over my shoulder or at my chin, as an improvement over the other stuff. Sometimes Princess stares so intently at my chest when she is talking that I have to check to make sure the "girls" haven't hopped out to say hi.
- NOT hitting the person that really annoys you-- It sucks when my kids fight. Siblings are wont to hit each other now and then. Where it gets tricky is when the annoying person isn't family. I keep waiting for the day when Princess throws some "annoying" kid down on the playground and expresses her displeasure all over his or her head. Whether that kid deserved it or not, sorry will probably be the last thing he or his parents want to hear.
- Choosing tears as a last resort-- I would give my left frontal lobe to make this one happen! Some days, not a single solitary word uttered on the Crazy Train is spoken without impending tears or full-on sobs. Just today, Birdie cried everything she said for nearly two hours! And all because she couldn't find a little plastic ladybug piece of crap that she "won" at Chuck E Cheese 2 years ago! Oh, and I found the toy halfway through her sob session! She was just so worked up that she couldn't let it go for the whole next hour.
- Getting organized-- without mom. Enough said, really. You saw their rooms at Easter, didn't you?
- Having an appropriate conversation that someone else might enjoy too, preferably with someone their own age-- You know, like not talking nonstop about Bigfoot, or your imaginary pet dragon, or your desire to have a pet slime mold-- which is neither slime, nor a mold incidentally. Oh, and asking how that person you are boring to death is doing, too, might be nice-- even if you truly don't give a damn.
- Using words to express unhappiness or displeasure, especially when someone enters their sacred "personal space"-- This goes hand in hand with Item #2, but broadens the scope of undesired behaviors to include shrieking, yelling, growling, howling, and teeth-gnashing. Yes, I am still talking about my children.
- Reading social cues and facial expressions correctly-- This would require looking at people's faces on occasion, so we have a long way to go to earn the gold here.
- Introducing yourself to people your own age-- Birdie will walk up to any grown-up and introduce herself instantly and begin
boring that person to deathwowing them with her endless information (see #5). Put another 8 year old in front of her, and you may not get anything at all out of her, not even a squeak sometimes. Princess, on the other hand, is an equal opportunity ignorer. She's not going to introduce herself to or talk to anyone she is just meeting for the first time. Or the third time, for that matter.
I'm sure that I could come up with many other medal-worthy skills if I tried. I know that this list will change as my children grow and their social interactions become more complicated. Oh no-- I don't even want to think about that! The point is, however, that we have some things to work on around here, and I am open to suggestions as to how to make them happen. It takes a village, as we all know.
Regardless, my kids have to put forth an Olympic-sized effort to try to learn these boring, everyday life skills that most of us acquire naturally. I have always been a very outgoing person, and I never appreciated how difficult these skills could be until I had my children. I see how hard they try to do these things, and I think maybe they should get recognition for their hard work, too-- even if there is still plenty of room for improvement!
Any medal-worthy skills you'd like your kids to acquire?