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Mon, Aug 06, 2012
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The 2012 Parenting Olympics
by Clara Chow

Every four years, when the Olympics rolls around, columnists have a field day speculating which events would make the cut if parenting were an Olympic sport.

My favourite list, so far, is New Hampshire psychologist Benjamin Garber's "parenthlete events".

These include a Reverse Tug Of War ("a parent draws a line in the sand and tries to keep his child from stepping over it... Physical contact prohibited") and Competitive Punctuality ("Drivers must get their vans and SUVs to each of 10 appointments within an 8km radius in a five-minute period, with hungry toddlers strapped in the backseats").

His tongue-in-cheek proposals had me daydreaming about some imaginary mummy sports that I would probably get a gold medal in: Olympic Screaming, Synchronised Punishment and Baby Bag-Packing.

Others that I can think of, but probably not fare well in, include Competitive Hot-Housing (contestants will have to drill their kids in maths, four languages, physics, chemistry, biology, software coding, painting, drama and three sports; the parent whose kid has the highest combined PSLE, O- and A-level, SAT and Test of English as a Foreign Language scores wins).

Others are Tantrum Withstanding (contenders have to handle children or teens having public meltdowns in a 10- minute window; whoever resolves the most number of tantrums satisfactorily wins); and Competitive Bedtime (parents compete to coax a child to sleep in the shortest time).

Jokes aside, I am enjoying the Olympic Games in London tremendously, because it is the first time that I am able to watch the Games with both my sons, who are aged 6 1/2 years and almost three years.

The last time round, during the 2008 Beijing Games, Lucien had not been born. Julian, then only 21/2, was still too young to appreciate the guts and glory behind the televised grunting faces and straining bodies.

In the past week, Julian has been clamouring to watch the Olympic coverage on free-to-air TV. Granted, the crafty boy has figured out that it's a good way to stay up past his bedtime, as we operate on London time.

Yet, he is genuinely interested in various Olympic events.

When American swimmer Michael Phelps narrowly lost out to South Africa's Chad Le Clos for the 200m butterfly gold, he talked nineteen to the dozen about it, while jumping up and down on the couch.

Watching the men's gymnastics finals one night, he couldn't keep his eyes from closing.

"I'm going to just rest my eyes for a while. Let me know the score," he instructed his dad, before drifting off to dreamland.

Meanwhile, Lucien has been the Olympic Clown of our household.

While watching the women's weightlifting finals, he would mimic the athletes strutting up on stage, powdering their hands solemnly and then squatting down to lift their hefty loads. With an invisible bar in his hands, he would imitate them exerting all their strength to raise the weights above their heads.

Then he would complete his mime with a triumphant throwdown of the imaginary bar, before exiting into our balcony.

Parents seemed to have become the accidental heroes in this Olympics - witness American gymnast Aly Raisman's parents becoming instant YouTube stars, after a video clip of them doing facial gymnastics while cheering on their daughter went viral - and I can relate to how these sports mums and dads feel.

After all, it's been great watching my kids grow up from my front-row living-room seat. And I will continue to cheer them on proudly.

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