Posted by: Mark Nielsen | August 13, 2008

Olympian Adventures in Conscious Parenting

Graham, who is six, just ran into the office to show me the caterpillar climbing up the glass door in our back yard. It’s one of the moments of grace in what could be a humdrum life, if one is not watching and listening for those moments of grace.

Kids have that natural ability to stop and smell the roses, to help us preserve that sense of wonder we’re all born with, but often lose as we get older. We get busy, we get stressed, we re-orient our ideas about what’s “important”, and we fail to see what’s right in front of us. Kids help us stay in touch with “the now”, in a spiritually significant way.

Earlier today, Graham stubbed his toe while hopping around excitedly in response to some show on Nickelodeon (which I’m glad he’s showing interest in again, instead of the trickier values he’d be exposed to in the programs and commercials on Cartoon Network). As he cried, he pleaded “Will you kiss it?”

Now… I’ve participated in Christian foot-washing services at Easter, and I’ve joked around about kissing the feet of my wife or some authority figure or victor in a sporting event, but I’ve never actually done it. Nevertheless, when it’s a six-year-old asking for comfort, a bit of foot-kissing never hurt anyone. So I did it.

A couple days ago, the reminder of grace came in the form of an innocent question while watching the Olympics. We were more or less forcing Graham to watch men’s gymnastics with us (he’s probably got that body-type, moreso than that of a football or basketball player). As he watched the guys go flying around on the high bar, doing releases and somersaults and spins and handstands, he asked “Is this real?” As in, ‘are there any movie-type special effects going on, or are these guys just that strong and brave, and maybe a little bit crazy?’

We told Graham yeah, it’s real, it’s live, and there are no special effects. And his question renewed my respect for the many hours of training Olympians endure, getting the human body to do things it can only do if one has focus, years-long endurance, and an unselfishness that few of us will ever be able to master. The Olympians are doing what they love, what they’re called to do – and better yet we have the immense privilege of watching up-close, as they occasionally redefine the possibilities contained in these flawed but potential-filled bodies of ours.

(Like, did you SEE the burst that last American guy Jason Lezak, the “old man” of the swim team, put on in the Men’s 4×100 meter freestyle swim relay? Best 100 meter split ever. Lezak chased down the cocky French anchorman at the last minute. Incredible. Clearly the “Kerry Strug” moment of these games, and I doubt a better story will emerge in the next two weeks. Thanks, gentlemen. You make me proud to be a human, which is not an easy thing lately.)

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