what the Olympians thanking their moms don’t know

It’s a completely different experience watching the Olympics as a parent, isn’t it? As a child, I felt strongly that only a few hours of practice and the right coach were all that kept me from actually BEING Nadia Comaneci or Mary Lou Retton.

Same haircut, for one thing. And I mean, I could do that dismount pose with the crazy hyper-arched back so well.

if you squint, it’s totally me, right?

But I’m watching the 2012 Olympics, and most of the athletes are half my age. And while their grace and skill are thrilling, here’s who I’m identifying with right here.

I hope you have watched Aly Raisman’s parents react to her routine at least a dozen times by now; if not, I’ll wait here while you do, because, as Maggie Dammit put it,

“Alexandra Raisman’s parents just made my entire Olympics experience. I can turn the TV off forever now.”

(At least until Kristen Wiig returns to play Mama Raisman in the SNL season opener.)

I was surprised and dismayed by some of the reactions to the Raismans’ level of stress and involvement as seen here. “What a stage mother,” some said, or “What nightmares for parents.” I can only assume that the people who reacted that way aren’t parents themselves. I’ve nail-chewed my way through seven years’ worth of school Christmas concerts so far, and I’m not sure a videocamera trained on me would be much different.

When I look at that video, I see parents who have stopped at nothing to enable their daughter’s dream, who have put their own lives on hold for what? eight years?, who have every last penny invested in their Team USA Polo shirts. Let’s hope it was because that’s what their daughter wanted, but either way, we wouldn’t be chanting “USA!” without them.

Procter and Gamble figured this out, and their “Thanks Mom!” ad campaign sets out to honor the Olympic moms and all that they’ve done. As a mother, though, I find the sentiments of the Olympians in those ads a tad disappointing. Aly Raisman’s own tribute said her mom was great because “she’s always doing my laundry.” Aly, I think your laundry is about #50 on the list of great things your mother has done for you. (In her defense, Aly claimed on the Today show that she had had no idea that’s what her parents were really doing up there in the stands.)

Gabby Douglas left her sentiments at “My mom is awesome. Thanks, Mom!” and left out the part where her single-parent mother sent her halfway across the country to live with strangers because she was told that was best for Gabby’s career. By all indications, it was, but it couldn’t have been easy.

When I see those “Thanks Mom!” ads, I am torn between laughing and wanting to bean the fit youngster right through the television with a pair of the socks I am folding as I watch. They so don’t get it, I think. But maybe that’s the point. They’re living their dream, they’re on top of the world, they’re having their moments in the spotlight- and Mom? Oh yeah, sure, she’s awesome in that mom kind of way. Right there behind me every step of the way. Right where she was supposed to be.

Maybe it’s the very confidence of these young people that their mothers’ dedication is everyday, nothing special, and utterly dependable that got them where they are in the first place. And maybe they really don’t get it. But that’s just another sign of their mothers having done a great job.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Carrie T August 6, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I agree that the sentiments expressed in those ads aren’t the most meaningful at times, but that’s the way P&G directed the ads…that’s all. It shouldn’t be taken as a representation of all those athletes are thankful for…it’s merely what P&G asked them to say or what was short enough to fit into the ad and remind people of their products (hello…laundry?) I’m certain that’s not all she’s thankful for or even all she said in taping the commercial. Give the athletes a little more credit & if anything, be disappointed in P&G for their portrayal of what these athletes are thankful for.


amywlsn August 6, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Carrie you are totally right that the laundry reference is useful to P&G; maybe they even told Reisman to say that, who knows? Thanks for pointing out that obvious usefulness (which had not occurred to me). I do wonder, though, if the athletes got real with what their mothers had done for them, what incentive P&G would have not to use the good stuff instead of the general platitudes. I tend to still think these athletes are teenagers, typically myopic. They’ll get it one of these days though.


Kathy at kissing the frog August 7, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I remember sitting through my special-needs three year old’s preschool program like a total stage mom, biting my nails, then crying with joy. Eh, it’s what we do. 🙂


Alex@LateEnough August 11, 2012 at 12:18 am

The last paragraph made me teary-eyed. I alternate between enjoying moms and dads being more front and center and cringing at how much P&G and NBC is playing it. I’m not THAT important.


Kristin @kdwald August 11, 2012 at 1:30 am

Love this from top to bottom. I was annoyed by a lot of reactions surrounding the Olympics (uh, hi! these kids/adults worked their butts off. they can celebrate [or be disappointed] however they want!). And while Aly’s parents are fantastically funny, it just got nasty.

And oh yes to the thanking part. I’m sure that the kids know the sacrifices made, but I wouldn’t want to bare my soul or mom and dad’s on a commercial. I think about how much the parents and kids have sacrificed to chase a dream and perform for us – and I know I will not be doing that for my kids. But I’m glad the Olympians have parents and supporters who were willing.


Kris August 11, 2012 at 10:11 pm

My first & only reaction to seeing the Reisman parents watching their daughter’s routine was “OMG! THey do that too?!” I was so relieved- I didn’t know there was any kind of reaction to this (I rarely get to watch)- I loved your thoughts on this, I’ll be saving your blog for future reads 🙂


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