Watching these Olympic games has been surprisingly hard for me. I find myself getting emotional and dewy-eyed as I watch these young athletes as they win, lose, cry and hug, and this is a new development for me. For the first time, these games are doing more to point all of the things I will never do, and never have…because I’m too old.
I’m 42 this year. Not old by objective measures, no, but by the standards of the Olympians, I’m ancient. It’s really sunk in that I will never be an Olympian — not because of my near total lack of athletic ability, but because the time for me to start training would’ve been three decades ago. Truly, by the time anyone is old enough to decide they want to be in the Olympics…they’re too old to start training. These kids start when they’re 4 years old, and they sacrifice the life of a normal kid to be a world-class athlete.
Then it sinks in even further — are MY kids too old to ever achieve this? I have five-year-olds — maybe they still have time to start the rigorous process.
Then I hear the human-interest stories about families moving to Idaho to follow their kid’s athletic talent to a world-class coach. It translates to many thousands of dollars spent to explore a kid’s ability, and dedicate the entire family’s life to it. I can’t do that for my kids. If it were a matter of wanting equaling getting, my kids would be well provided for…but not in this real world.
Then as my thoughts turn more inward, I watch the gymnast girls, and after each routine, they run to their team and their coaches, and into a round of hugs and encouragement. After each routine. NBC shows a parade of routine, hug, encourage…routine, hug, encourage… I know what kind of father I am, and it makes me ashamed to see this; I wonder if it’s too late to become this kind of loving, encouraging person — I wonder if I started tomorrow if my family would even believe it’s real, or think I was faking it? I want my kids to grow up with that warm, safe environment, to nurture their abilities…and they don’t have it right now. I want, someday, to be the dad up in the stands, on international tv, writhing in my seat and screaming as my daughter lands a tumbling pass for Olympic gold…and I am so certain that it will never happen, that I hurt, for myself and for my children.