PERSPECTIVE: An Olympic reminder of parenting’s challenges

I don’t know about you, but I love the Olympics. Watching athletes perform after lifelong commitment is inspiring. Each of these amazing competitors has a story filled with years of preparation, hard work and unyielding perseverance. Most often, family support is paramount. I was watching an interview with Chloe Kim, the American gold medalist in women’s snowboarding. The 17-year-old smiled as she spoke of her family, and especially her dad, and the steadfast dedication to her passion and dream.

The tenacity of families when it comes to Olympic-level participation has me wondering whether I missed the boat with my own children. All I can think of is the time when my then 8-year-old daughter was playing in the community soccer league. One Saturday morning it was my turn to bring snacks. As I entered the park, I noticed the plethora of organized parents rolling their prepared coolers for post-game refreshments. A pit formed in my stomach with an instantaneous realization that I’d totally forgotten my scheduled assignment. That happens sometimes with a fourth child.

After a rushed trip to the nearest grocery store, I wrapped the room-temperature juice boxes and fruit roll-ups in a back-seat blanket, carrying them like a satchel to the field. With the final whistle, the girls ran towards me with excitement only to see their game snacks splayed on the blanket laced with shards of cut grass. I tried to overcompensate my underwhelming soccer mom efforts with a few too many accolades, especially after their shutout loss.

I noticed the opposing team munching home-baked cookies decorated like soccer balls. I left the field attempting to minimize my lameness with silent grumbles of, “Why do these kids need snacks anyway?”

Dedication and success in any endeavor isn’t about post-game snacks (at least I hope not). I’m pretty sure my daughter was never destined to play on the Olympic Women’s Soccer team. But as I listened to Chloe Kim, I was struck by the gratitude she expressed for her mom and dad. Glowing success is rare for someone so young, yet her words were filled with appreciation for those little moments of support. Chloe Kim’s account of her dad cooking for her, applying sunscreen to her young face, and driving hours to the California mountains for snowboard practices represent the stuff of parenting we can all relate to.

Parenthood is anything but glamorous. The triumph of our kids’ success — and the call to shepherd their difficulties — define the extremes of our experience. As important are the multitude of routine moments of fostering our children towards a fruitful life. Bedtime ritual for little ones, infusing belief in the ability to navigate tough homework assignments, and offering direction during adolescence all include the stuff of ordinary time — which in turn helps to nurture our extraordinary children. The stories of Olympic athletes offer an opportunity to showcase the universal support born from kitchen table encouragement.

Now that my kids are grown, the moment-to-moment ministry of care is much more sporadic. I rest my case in the details of raising them, but I delight and appreciate those who are in the midst of it all. Hearing others steer through small struggles and big challenges leaves me with an even greater appreciation for what it means to parent. Mr. Kim reminded me of how remarkable the backdrop of parenting can be. I wonder what kind of snacks he brought?

Anne Marie Romer is a regular contributor.