Daughter has Olympic dreams, but does mom?

Sarah Maizes' 9-year-old daughter Livi wants to go to the Olympics, and she may just have the talent and the drive to get there... but does mom have what it takes?
Sarah Maizes' 9-year-old daughter Livi wants to go to the Olympics, and she may just have the talent and the drive to get there... but does mom have what it takes?Courtesy Sarah Maizes / Today

The other day I was on the phone with another mom from my 9-year old daughter’s gymnastics team. It’s a USAG (USA Gymnastics) team and it’s really competitive. We were both moaning about how they are adding another day of practice in the fall and that means getting to the gym by 8 on Saturday mornings. We like our weekends… and our sleep. 

“Maybe I should keep her back,” I said.  “After all, it’s not like she’s going to go to the Olympics.”

I turned around and saw Livi staring at me in horror.

“You aren’t going to let me go to the Olympics?!!”  she shrieked, and bolted out of the room. 

Wow. I’m such a crappy mom. I didn’t know she wanted to go to the Olympics. I mean, I knew she “wanted” to go - the same way she “wanted” to be a princess or a unicorn trainer one day.  But really?

Training for the Olympics is way too much of a commitment for her; too much time, too much hard work, too much sacrifice.  But as I hugged my crying girl and rubbed her ponytailed head I wondered – was it too much for her?  Or was it was too much for me?

I’ve seen the footage of Aly Raisman’s parents watching their daughter at the Olympic qualifiers. You can see them involuntarily weave, bob and sway in tandem with their daughter’s every move.  They’re totally vested.  They’ve spent years supporting their child’s dream.  Taking her to competitions, footing hotel and coaching bills, shuttling her back and forth… waking up early! And Aly has three younger siblings!  How did her parents do it??!!

On TODAY, when Matt Lauer asked the parents of the winning Olympic women’s gymnastics team whether they flashed back to all those cold, dark early-morning practices when they saw the gold medals being placed around their daughters’ necks, heads nodded and the parents smiled in recognition. “Absolutely,” said Natalie Hawkins, Gabby Douglas’s mom.

In the end, for them, it was clearly worth it. “I was thinking back even to injuries that she had to overcome,” Hawkins said. “To be able to be here and celebrate with them in this moment in time is amazing.”

So far, my sacrifice for Livi’s love of gymnastics has included taking her to practice three days a week, staying up late to help her complete homework assignments and making sure she stretches in between workouts. And I’m already pooped.

If Livi continues toward her Olympic dream, her practices will be longer, more frequent, and all-consuming. Her meets will be further away. As a single mom, I’ll worry about money and either have to drag her brother and sister to tournaments or find other child care options – always wondering if they feel like they are getting the short end of the stick.

I guess the first question I should ask myself is “does she even stand a chance?” I’ve seen old clips of Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas at Livi’s age and, surprisingly, she measures up. At least for now. 

I know it’s crazy to indulge this fantasy. But what if her dream could come true? Would I want it to? She’d live at the gym. Her coach will almost (but hopefully never quite) usurp my position in her life and she’ll miss out on so much that I want for her. But maybe it’s not what she wants.

Who knows what the future will hold. All I know is, as her mom I can’t squelch her dreams. Not yet. There will be plenty of time for that when she wants a tattoo. 

So I wipe her tears and I promise: “If you want to go to the Olympics, I will do everything in my power to help you get there.”  

She smiles at me, relieved.

Why couldn’t she just want to train unicorns?

Sarah Maizes is an author, blogger, comedian, and founder of MommyLITEonline.com [http://www.MommyLITEonline.com], a parenting humor website.  Her first children’s book, "On My Way to the Bath," just came out from Walker Books. Would you like more of Sarah’s parental musings, unsolicited advice and random observations?  Check her out on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @SarahMaizes.

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