Olympic Dreams: Parents in London

How do you know if you are raising a future Olympic athlete? What if her love of somersaults and flips could make her the next Shawn Johnson? What if she really is the fastest runner or highest jumper or most synchronized swimmer on the planet?

I’m not asking because I think my couch-potato self actually produced an athlete who’ll compete in the 2024 Summer Games. But it’s not just about athletics: How do you know if your kid’s sweet singing voice is Broadway material, or if her drum-banging signals the perfect ear for music and not just a love of noise?

To put it another way, what really nags at me is: When should we push our children to develop and deepen their interests and talents, and when should we step back and follow their often-apathetic lead? When should we stand our ground and insist they stay in that swimming class or keep practicing that piano teacher, even when their inclination is to want to quit?

I am posing these questions not just to muse–welcome to my Inner Father Insecurity #437–but because I am going in search of answers. Yes, I am heading to London for the Olympics, with many, many thanks to Proctor & Gamble, which is funding the trip as part of its ”Thank You, Mom” campaign.

It’s a tough assignment, but I am doing my journalistic duty and will report back on what I find out.  While I am there I will be interviewing as many athletes–and their moms or dads–as I can. In addition to asking them how it feels to, you know, compete in the Summer Olympics, I will also be interrogating them on when they started focusing on their sport (“Did those diapers slow you down, Mr. Phelps?”), and how they knew.

As children, how did they realize that this sport is their passion, that they’d rather be in the pool or gym than doing whatever it is their peers were doing all those years? As parents, how did they decide to allow their children at such young ages to focus their lives so intently and uncompromisingly on this passion?

I, will, of course, let you know what I find out. Check back here on Goodyblog for my posts from London, and follow us on Twitter–we’re @ParentsMagazine–to experience it with me. I will also be shooting as many pictures as I can and posting them to our Instagram account, which is also @ParentsMagazine. And don’t miss the rest of our Olympics coverage, including craft and party ideas!

But before I go, I want to ask: What would you like me to ask the Olympic athletes and their parents? Post your questions in the comments section below or on our Facebook page, and I will try to ask as many as possible.

Image courtesy London 2012.

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