June 25, 2011 marked the start of the World Summer Games for the Special Olympics. Close to 7,500 athletes from 180 countries gathered in Athens, Greece to not only display their talents and achievements but to also raise awareness to the needs of the intellectually disabled. One morning as my husband and I pondered over a cup of coffee, we discussed the level of dedication any Olympic athlete must have. It’s not just about investing in long hours of practice and training. Involvement also requires devoting time and energy to a goal that becomes a huge part of your life. However, it takes more than just the dedication of these athletes to be successful. It also requires an extraordinary amount of commitment from their parents.
As the Mom of a budding soccer star, I have only had a small taste of what it must be like for the parents of Olympic hopefuls. It’s not easy fitting in extra practices into an already full schedule or spending hours sitting through tournaments cheering for your children. No medals or trophies are offered for giving up an extra couple hours of sleep to get your children to their meets, games or tournaments. There is often little to no acknowledgement for the times you have completely rearranged your schedule because the coach wants to get just one more practice in before the big game. You remain content with the occasional hug and “Thanks Mom/Dad“ from your child. The excitement of seeing them win their first game or the thrill of watching them beam with self-pride is the reward that carries most of us through the endless hours we devote to their success.
Separated and divorced parents are not all that different than those parents of Olympic athletes. A lot of the work you put into your children’s success is often invisible to the rest of the world. There is no one cheering you on because you bit your tongue instead of telling your ex what you really thought. It is doubtful that anyone will ever acknowledge the countless times you resisted the temptation to tell children your side of the story and instead took a higher road. In all likelihood, your children will never know the energy you have put into making their success your top priority. Like the parents of all those Olympic hopefuls, you will probably never see a gold medal for your efforts or get recognized for your dedication and hard work. However, that unacknowledged dedication and willingness to put your children’s needs first, time and time again, truly makes all the difference in their future success.
So thank you to all those parents (biological and bonus) who have committed themselves to the long haul, not the short game. Kudos to those of you who have never heard thank you from the other parent and yet continue to separate your feelings from the needs of your children. While your “behind the scenes” work may go unnoticed, know that the effort you put in every day brings your child closer to being a gold medalist in life.
Next time you are facing a difficult situation, whether it’s a disagreement with the other parent or an issue involving your kids, remember to keep your eyes on the gold.
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