An Olympic Impact

Are you watching the Winter Olympics with your child?

While my children normally prefer to watch cartoons, I’ve been able to slowly but surely get them to watch the Olympics with my husband and I. We started with curling and cross country skiing, I couldn’t hold their attention. Skating caught their eye, “Wow, they make it look so easy,” my oldest commented. Snowboarding, the half-pipe in particular, captured their attention. Watching Chloe Kim and Shaun White win gold was pretty amazing. Getting the kids to stay tuned beyond that has been much simpler. They are now interested in watching downhill, luge, and ski jumping. They are slowly but surely getting into the Olympics.

Of course, I’m reminded of my own Olympic dreams when I was a kid. Swimming was my sport and I just knew one day I’m make the games. I wonder what impact watching the Olympics will have on my kids. Will watching inspire them to have new Olympic dreams?

There is something special about the Olympics. You see passion, dedication, and sacrifice. You see people’s dreams come true or crashing down. It can be a roller coaster of emotions for the athlete and the viewer. What it gave me as a kid was a dream — a vision for what I could do and who I could be (Olympian) — I never made it that far, but the child in me always treasures the dream for what it was. I learned that while the athletes make their respective sports look easy, it’s the long hours of hard work, failures and getting up and trying to get better over and over again that elevates them to their elite levels, and that in life to excel and exceed you have to push yourself to be your best over and over again very much like an Olympic athlete.

I wonder what my kids will take from the Olympics.

Are your kids into the Olympics? What impact do you think the Olympics will have on them?

New (Year) Insights

Do you have a resolution for the New Year?

I am continuing to become smarter about my youngest son who has high functioning autism (better known as Asperger’s syndrome) and plan to continue to do so in the New Year. I don’t know that I would call it a resolution per se, but I feel like I’m an ostrich pulling my head out of the sand finally. I think talking more openly about my son being on the spectrum has empowered me to be more open, proactive, and grateful for the information I am coming across — lectures, videos, books — I am not alone in trying to educated myself and am thankful so many others are doing such great work in this space.

One of my son’s spectrum traits comes across in his passion for geography. He is not just interested in geography but fixated on it. He can name practically every country in the world, tell you little known facts and provide insights into the country’s flag, population and more. In his mind, he has already mapped out his future (literally and figuratively). He has had a friend/fiancé since he was 7 and decided when his friend got engaged that they would live in NYC when they get married at 25 (it still makes me smile to think that they came up with that all on their own at such a young age). Since then, his love (fixation) on geography has grown and he has become borderline obsessed with moving to Australia. To a small remote town on the east coast of the country. My husband and I are not sure how he found the city exactly (we’ve never been there), but he didn’t pick it willy nilly. He clearly put some thought into it and has big ideas for this town — he’ll be a teacher, or he’ll build a new building, or maybe be the mayor. At the end of the day, he sees himself positively impacting this town. That’s hard to argue with, however, I had to get my son to think about his girlfriend. He knows he wants to go to this town and live there someday, but what about her. Would she?

“What if she gets a job somewhere else?” I asked him, “Or doesn’t want to live there? What will you do then?” He got sad. He cried and I was sad I’d upset him, but I wanted to make sure he understood in any relationship both people have a say, and where you live is an important decision you have to make together. After he had somewhat calmed down he started saying, “I’m a bad person. I’m a bad person.” This worried me. Why was he saying this? I asked him to talk to me and explain what he was saying. “I just realized that I don’t give her enough of my time,” he said. “Your girlfriend?” I asked. “Yes. The way my mind works, I have these thoughts and I really like thinking my thoughts. And there isn’t a lot of room for me to think about other peoples thoughts. And it’s not because I don’t want to, it’s because my mind really, really, really wants to think about what it wants to think about. Like moving to Australia. I can’t imagine not moving there but I hadn’t thought about her not wanting to move there too, and that makes me a bad person.” Before I could respond he continued, “It’s like if you think of my mind like a pie. I want to think about what I want to think about 95% of the time. That only leaves 5% for other people.” He paused then continued on, “That’s the problem with having friends. I want to have friends, but my mind doesn’t have space for them.” Whoa, I thought, I just got some very valuable insights into my son. I was blown away by his self-awareness and his ability to articulate the way he sees his mind working. I told him as much then I tried to get him to rethink how he could broach the subject with his friend, who happens to be visiting Australia presently. “Why don’t you ask her what she thought of the country? See what you can learn from her about it, and see if she might be interested in living there one day,” I suggested. “And you’re not going to live there for quite a while, you never know where life will take you. Maybe you’ll get a chance to visit there, or maybe even go to school there.” My son seemed to perk up as the conversation went along, “Yes!” he said, “maybe I can visit or spend some time there and check it out. And maybe she can come visit and then we can decide from there.” I loved that he was figuring out how this could potentially work.

My son continues to surprise me. I have thought my son’s relationship with this girl would have ended a while ago, but it’s continued to go on three + years. I know the likelihood that they’ll end up married and living in this remote Australian city is slim, but I love how big my son is dreaming. I love that he is better understanding himself and is willing to share how his mind works, and is open (at least starting to be) that he may have to build some new muscles if he wants to keep this relationship and have it grow.

I look forward to the New Year and the insights I will gain.

What do you hope to gain in the New Year?

I Have a Dream

What are your dreams for your child?

I’m inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream for his:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a teenager I questioned my parents on why they had had kids — the world is a tough place, why would you want to bring someone into it?  My dad said, “To leave the world a better place. You want your children to do better than you did.” I got it.  Wanting your child to be a better person, a better contributor to the world than you are is a lofty goal.  It is my dad’s dream for his own children, and I’m hoping to achieve it with my own.

It got me thinking about what my dreams are for my own children. I want them to be a better person than I am. I want them to contribute in a more meaningful way. But my dreams going even further. I too want them to live in a country where they are not judged by their outward appearance (and not judge others by their’s), but by the content of their character. I want them to appreciate the beauty all around them, even in the most common places; to care for others, to be empathic, understanding and giving; and to experience as much joy in their life as possible.

As a parent, I have to evaluate what I’m doing to make the dreams I have for my boys a reality. I can be open about my dreams with my children, and try to get them to see the benefit of the dreams I have for them, but ultimately they will have to decide which of my dreams they want adopt and make their reality.

What dreams to you have for your child?

Thank you, Martin Luther King, Jr., for your inspiring words.

Survive and Advance

ESPN’s 30 for 30 is currently airing “Survive and Advance.” It is the story of Coach Jim Valvano and his 1983 NC State Wolfpack team who won the highly coveted NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship against all odds. It’s a gripping story about a coach who had an amazing gift for connecting and teaching others lessons that transcend the game of basketball and applied to how to live your life. Jim Valvano, also known as Jimmy V, received a diagnosis of cancer and sadly passed away in 1993. Twenty years later he continues to inspire.

The title of this documentary is perfect. Coach Valvano and his team survived many close games, often coming back from behind right at the very end, to advance to the next round towards their ultimate goal—a championship.  Its clear in the documentary that while luck may have played a part, there was a lot more to it and that was Coach V. Coach Valvano believed in his team with a passion, he believed that he would win a championship and that his team would win a championship. He had this dream, and felt so strongly about it he had his team practice cutting down the nets so they would know what it felt like. He shares that he knew how difficult it would be to win a championship, but that his father had given him a great gift—a  belief in him that he could do anything. Wow, I thought, what an amazing gift. When the diagnosis of cancer came, he fought it with the same belief that he could do anything, he would beat this. He went to great lengths to survive and advance (live) every possible day. Towards the end of his battle the Jimmy V Foundation was set-up to raise money to beat (cure) Cancer.  The motto of the Jimmy V Foundation is “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

This story really spoke to me as a parent. When our child is born, we go into survival mode. It can sometimes feel like a struggle to make it to the next day.  But over time as we get more comfortable with our abilities we advance, and are given the awesome task of shaping our child into an amazing, capable human being.  We can inspire our children, get them to dream, and give them confidence in themselves by showing them we believe in them. We can support them as they grow, teach them and guide them to never ever give up, on their dreams or themselves.

Thank you Coach Valvano for being such an inspiration.

How do you inspire? How do you dream? How do you survive and advance?