Why the Olympics are making me sad

After a disease left her daughter unable to pursue elite athletics, a P&G "Thank You, Mom" video reminds Nadine Silverthorne she's raising a champion anyway.


For so many parents, the Olympics are a wonderful event to share with their children. Its messages of hard work and perseverance, about reaching for your dreams, well, they are all inspiring. The built-in geography lesson doesn't hurt either. But for me, I can't help but watch the Sochi 2014 games with a sting in my heart, and it's not just about host country Russia's human rights violations.

My six-year-old will never be an Olympian. Oh big deal, you're thinking, neither will mine. And I get it—I'm not that mom. Like many girls, after watching the 2012 summer games, my daughter became obsessed with Gabby Douglas and gymnastics. A natural athlete (she takes after her dad there), she began taking gymnastics classes and loved every minute of it. I didn't really have any grand illusions about it. She was having fun and being active and I got an hour every Saturday to read a book. But then her dream was cut short by an invisible disease.

This isn't a story about her disease or the crisis we went through last fall, which included brain surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children and a stint at Holland Bloorview Rehabilitation Hospital. This isn't a story of how my hopes for the future have been crushed now that the future has exposed itself as a mythical creature. While she is well at the moment, and fully mobile (something I no longer take for granted), gymnastics is no longer in the cards for her.

Imagine telling your child that she has to stop doing this one positive thing that she loves and is passionate about. Imagine telling your child that no, they can't work their hardest and achieve their goals. At least not when it comes to this one thing. We've had to adjust the dream, shift the focus, energy and desire to succeed into other channels (swimming! Theatre arts!). So until this morning, thinking about the Olympics made me cry because my little girl's vision for who she could strive to be was erased.

It's amazing how your perspective can change in an instant. After much hoopla around the office, I hesitantly clicked on the latest P&G "Thank You, Mom" commercial today. The focus of the short video is on the incredible moms of special needs kids, a community which I'm slowly realizing I'm now a part of.  I've seen those moms and dads in the hospitals, pushing their kids—even when it was hard and painful—to try their best. We have an incredible story of one of the "World's Toughest Moms" right here in Anchel Krishna, a supermom whose triumphs we celebrate as she raises a daughter with Cerebral Palsy. The video instantly reminded me of what I experienced myself last fall, how every goal and milestone we reached felt like a gold medal. How we found grace and beauty in the face of adversity, and a strength of character we didn't know we had. How each day we are given is a day that we've won.


So the Olympics will still make me cry, though not for the reasons they did when I started this post. And we're going to "own the podium" our way, one step at a time.

This article was originally published on Feb 21, 2014

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