Monday, 6 August 2012

How Team GB are helping me to be a better parent

Like a lot of people I know, I’ve done a spectacular u-turn when it comes to the Olympics.  If you’d have mentioned it to me a few months ago, I’d have groaned and rolled my eyes like a teenager.  But hands on heart I’ve not watched anything, ANYTHING, else except the Olympics on the telly.  I am hooked. My hand trembles on the remote in the morning to locate BBC1 for my next fix.  I snarl at Anonoman when he dares to pause live tv.  I watch it all; swimming, sailing, track and field, archery, hockey, tennis, football, volleyball (mainly because Anonoman’s a fan of all the “wobbly bits”), equestrian and gardening (no hang on...I could have strayed onto Gardeners World there).
And how many Golds???  It’s like I’ve staggered into an alternate universe where all the colours are saturated like I’m wearing polarised sunglasses.  A place where winning isn’t just a dream, but a daily repeating reality.  Is this really the UK?  I’ve lost my voice from shouting at the telly and I’ve blubbed several times, not just for the winners, but watching the heartbreaking interviews from those who’ve fallen short of their goals.
However satisfying it is seeing team GB hoovering up medals, I’m more captivated by the athletes themselves; their stories, personalities and the single minded way they aim to be the best.  They are normal people like you and me (except in my case they don’t have a severe aversion to cardiovascular activity...or lycra).  They’re from the villages/towns/cities that we’re from.  Yet they are set apart by their focus, hardwork and determination to constantly improve on their performance. 
So I asked myself what I could learn from this inspirational and alien group of people.  Could the strategies for success that work for them, work for me - as a parent?  Here’s what I’ve learned.
It’s not just about me
Tiffany Porter runs the 100mtr hurdles for team GB.  In an interview with BBC news she explained that the key to any athlete’s success isn’t just the athlete themselves but whole the team around them.  Trainers, coaches, parents, nutritionists, psychologists and family all help to achieve her best, and this is true with my kids.  I rely on our friends and family to provide me with sanity and entertainment for Itchy & Scratchy.  We’ve also had much needed financial support from family, and well as free holidays and presents.  Then there are the babysitters, or lifesavers as I’d rather call them.  It’s a special sort of person who offers to babysit twins, especially ones as shy as mine.  I am fiercely independent and I need to take a leaf out of Tiffany’s book and realise how much everyone puts in, not just me.
Concentrate on the present
One team GB’s best swimmers, Gemma Spofforth, is a world record holder and former world champion in the backstroke.  Her career has seen its fair share of setbacks. But in an interview at the 2012 Olympics she explains how ignoring the past and future, and concentrating only on the present helps her to achieve her best.  I most definitely could do with adopting this viewpoint as I worry most of the time either that they are a) behind their peers in some way, or b) if anything is wrong with them it’ll be down to something I’ve done in the past.  I sound like a nut job I know, but it’s the unfortunate outcome of a catholic upbringing and interest in psychology.  If I removed these worries, then I’d gain a whole load of clear head space to just enjoy them as they are now.  I don’t want to blink and be waving them off to university.
Structure your days to continue improving.
In this month’s Tesco magazine Kelly Holmes, a retired British middle distance athlete, explains having her days structured helped her to continue to improve.  My days seem to bleed into one another and I’m often left with a feeling that perhaps I should have paid more attention to some area of their development whether it be learning colours, shapes or climbing.  I’m not about to get all Gina Ford on your ass but I think a bit more thought into activities would benefit my Tiddlers, even if it does feel like pulling teeth.
See the big picture.
In the same magazine Dave Florence, Gold medal winner for the canoe slalom in London’s 2012 Olympics talks candidly about how he mentally prepares for competitions.  “It might be horrendous out here and I may be absolutely exhausted, but if I can make this a really good session, then I’m another step closer to success”.  The words “horrendous” and “exhausted” are sponsors of some of my days, so I could definitely gain something from this frame of mind.  My goal at the moment is to sit and enjoy a coffee while the Tiddlers play happily in a soft play area.  My dream may not set the world alight, but to me it’s up there with winning the lottery.  No matter how painful it is to try and get the girls to climb alone and to get enough confidence to go off without me, each time I do it I’m getting a bit closer to Nivarna – a hot decaf skinny Latte and the opportunity to stare into space for a few minutes.
So thank you team GB, for a stupendous Olympics, for inspiring a nation of up and coming sporting talent, and for providing me with some excellent strategies for my strongest sport – parenting twins.  I too have been struggling with injury and self-doubt, but I’ll keep going and hope for a personal best.
Interviews with Dave Florence and Kelly Holmes come from Tesco magazine July-August 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment