Over President's weekend my husband had a four day weekend, a rarity in his line of work, but glorious when it happens, and he decided he wanted to take the boys to get hockey pads so that they could actually skate and not get hurt.
This all started last weekend when our oldest started to show some interest in hockey and actually wanted to skate. After clinging to the pushing gate (for teaching kids how to skate) for quite some time, we were able to convince him that it was OK to let go. He fell. He looked like he was going to cry but I rushed in, "It's okay Henrik, you just fell." I picked him up, he sniffled. He started to let out a few tears, "It's okay to cry, but you didn't get hurt, you are just upset about falling. We all have to fall, you know why?" He looked up at me like I was crazy. I brushed off the ice from his bottom and said, "we all have to fall so we can learn how to get back up. If we just stay down, we won't get stronger. We won't be more brave, and we can't get better at whatever it is we're trying. We have to get back up and try again. We just have to keep going." He still looked at me like I was spewing more wisdom than I knew, but he wiped his tears, stood tall on his skates with out the support, and started walking/skating again. After that, Eric wasn't sure the pep talk was going to stick, and because he wanted the boys back on the ice again, he decided that a trip to Play It Again Sports was a good idea to teach them about pads that go along with the sport, just to make falling easier.
The boys were excited as they picked out "new to them" pads and even a new pair of skates (we only had one pair). But when they discovered the skis and snowboards, I knew they'd lost interest in hockey (at least for now). They begged us to try on skis and snowboards, they smiled with such delight as they pretended to jump the "half tube" and ski down the mountain. We actually found some small skis for them and I urged Eric to purchase them. He wasn't convinced, but I knew that our boys would get so much joy from them, and since we lived in Colorado, at the base of a mountain, and were watching the Olympics daily, what harm could it do to teach these boys to "ski"?
We bought the skis.
And then, this happened:
And then this (video here):
And then, this:
And I realized that those hours of learning about the different Olympic games, and letting them practice indoors on their skis was teaching them more than how to have fun. It was teaching them the spirit of a game, hard work, dedication, honor to one's country, teamwork, good sportsmanship, and pride. We've noticed Henrik sitting at the top of the stairs watching the Olympics past his bedtime. He's wanted to skate, sled, snowboard, ski, luge, skeleton and do "flippies on a half tube" and has done his version by jumping off the ottoman, creating bobsleds out of laundry baskets, and has snuggled his way into our arms past bedtime to sit and talk about the Olympics, cheer on Team USA and to stand quietly at attention during the National Anthem of any country.
This morning, I had the news on as I got dressed. Henrik was supposed to be down stairs eating breakfast, but instead he came in my room and saw a story on Kiev and saw fire, destruction and sadness, something I'd usually just turn off, but I couldn't find the remote. I said nothing. I just watched as he sat quietly at the edge of my bed just staring at the before and after pictures of the town center. He then heard the newscaster say that some Ukrainian Olympians were dedicating their performance to their country and some had removed themselves from the games completely. When the news switched to a commercial, Henrik looked at me curiously, "Mom, why did they say Olympics when they were showing pictures of a giant fiery mess".
I knew he was going to have questions, I wasn't sure how to answer, but before I had time to think, I started talking, "Well, in a different part of the world, in a country called Ukraine, the people there are fighting with one another over how they want their country to be run. People are getting hurt, people are sad and people want change. The newscaster said that some of the Olympians from the Ukraine are still competing in the Olympics and they want their country to know that they are playing their sports just for them. Some people are not playing their games because they are too sad." He just sat for a minute looking back at the TV. "Oh, but why are they in the Olympics?" I wasn't really sure what he was asking, but I replied anyway, "Honey, the Olympics are an amazing thing, it's a time, for a few days every four years, where everyone in the world watches these athletes and supports one another. Every one forgets what they are fighting over, they don't worry about if they are friends or not, they just work together and play their sports." I didn't feel like a rival definition or a politics talk was in order, but I think he understood that we stop fighting and enjoy the games together. He's seen handshakes, hugs and even tears of sadness or joy in these games. He's heard me say, We don't want that team to win, we'd rather Team USA won the Gold. And he's seen me root for other nations in various sports. I think he understood.
He didn't say anything else, he just left the room and went downstairs. This made me start to realize that by watching these Olympic games with my sons, and by exposing them to the basics of competition, sport, country and politics, that I was actually doing so much for them by exposing them to the world, and all that goes with it. Here is a three year old that doesn't understand why people in Kiev are upset, he doesn't know the joy of beating Russia in a hockey game, or the sorrow in loosing to Canada, but he does know people. He's learning how to be a good sport and how to be a person of ethical and moral standing. He's learning about what it means to do something for your country and how to give hope and the idea of a better future. He may not have the words for this, or even comprehend why Ski Cross doesn't mean that the skiers are cross, but he's starting to form concepts that will stay with him forever.
And he's also learning a bit about himself. He's learning how to control his body, how to face his fears and that he can be just like those athletes on TV. He absolutely loves the commercials where the commercials are in rewind and you see the athletes doing their sports as small kids. He truly gains confidence by seeing kids his own size doing any of these sports. And while it means I take apart my couch and build a slalom in my living room, or let my boys push laundry baskets around as they bobsled through the kitchen, I am letting them live their dream of being an Olympian. I don't care if they are Olympians or not, I don't care if they stick with hockey or skiing, or find something else to be good at, but I hope that they always care with them these Olympics and the lessons they've learned about being a good person and a good representation of their country. And I hope that Henrik will remember staying up late with me as we sit and discuss the games, I know that this experience is one I will never forget.