At the start of the Summer Olympics this year, I was unenthused. My patriotism is average, at best, too cynical of politics to follow the flag into battle. I’ve long since lost that fear that this one race or event is an athlete’s only opportunity to experience glory, to feel that all their work and sacrifice was worth it. So, watching the Opening Ceremonies of 2012, I felt completely disengaged…
My eight year old made me stay up with him to wait for the U.S. team to enter the stadium. And my kids jumped on my bed every night screaming at the top of their lungs for Missy Franklin, Michael Phelps, Rebecca Sonin and Katie Ladecky in the pool. And my four year old kept asking “Did America win?” The boys teared up with Jordan Wieber when she didn’t qualify for the all-around, and they insisted on staying awake to see Gabby Douglas take her turn on the uneven bars.
And my eight year old would sneak into the den during the day to watch more, even the water polo and beach volleyball which he had never seen before. And they would race down to the computer every morning to check the medal count against China. And “China” became our household name for anyone who cheats at a game (even though it wasn’t politically correct to do so), specifically the eight year old. And when those professional all-star basketball players battled to win against Spain, we all cheered “Go America!” and “Look! Kobe is crying!” And we thought of them as old friends, who we can’t help help but love because we’ve watched them grow up on the courts.
I found myself crying with Missy Franklin as she sang the Star Spangled Banner and the television network showed us her classmates back home cheering from her high school gym. I felt forgotten pride hearing our song, a rekindled pariotism inspired by my kids jumping on the bed looking for the American flag: “We’re in Lane 4!” I felt joy for each victory. I felt each athlete’s work and practice and early mornings at the pool or gym paying off in a single moment that will last them — and my three kids — a lifetime.
Because of course, I still remember staying up to see the U.S. Hockey team stun the world with a gold medal. I remember screaming for Janet Evans and Mike Barrowman. I remember watching Nadia score her perfect 10.
And I remember feeling like the next Olympics could not come soon enough… just as I feel this morning, thanks to my kids.