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Modern Parenthood

Olympic women's gymnastics: Gabby Douglas and parenting gold

Gabby Douglas and the US Olympic women's gymnastics successes make a mom ponder going for parenting gold – and the extreme sport it is to raise an Olympian.

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It's something I can't fathom doing. I would like to think I would move to Iowa and pick corn for a living before letting my teen move in with a host family and entrust them with their body, mind, and education. Of course life is always easy from the cheap seats and her daughter is an Olympian. My finances would never allow such a move and then I would be uprooting three other kids in favor of one hopeful, so again, I should lob Nerf balls and not stones here.

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Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.

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As the mom of four sons of course you never want to judge, lest you find yourself in a similar situation in the next pin of the wheels of fate. Yet the tendency to judge other parents is pretty powerful when something that hard core comes down the pike.

Gabby is 16, so doing the math I still wince. It makes me almost feel absurd for getting misty over my 18-year-old leaving for college in two weeks.

Yet you can't argue with the Olympic results. So maybe I'm the bad parent for not sending my sons away to better schools.

"I wanted to make my Olympic dreams a reality, so I told my Mom, 'I need a better coach, and I need a better coach now,' " Douglas told Time magazine. I'm sure she's a lovely child, I adore her smile and am rooting for her and shouting at my TV set like anyone else, but all I could think of was Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka and what happened to her. It made me ask, "Who's the parent?"

However, all the reports today talk about how this Olympian has blossomed in Iowa, living rent-free with a host family that homeschools her. Her mother, by all accounts, is thrilled with the result as she and her other three children cheer on the family member they have seldom seen in close to two years.

Perhaps the stability and not just the coaching is what this child really needed coming from a home where her mother, who according the Virginian-Pilot divorced the same man twice and has struggled on disability to provide for her needs.

So everybody wins? Probably not the local trainers at Excalibur and all those like them who will forever be the Silver Medalists of the training games. They were the foster family that gave an Olympian her foundation, but ended up at odds and written out of the will. No Olympian Day card for them. While I see the logic, I also see that loyalty isn’t much of an issue in the life lesson department sometimes, when the gleam of precious medals becomes blinding as Olympic year approach.

I realize that I do not have what it takes to be any kind of Olympic parent. My hat is off to you all. Yet I wave my hat and smile for the parents who chose the path that kept them walking right beside their child. The path where everyone is under the same roof or at least in the same state at the end of the day.

I believe that there is a deeper strength we must train into a child, a tempering that forges their ability to win in life and still be on the medal stand. The kind of Olympic mom who is up at 5 a.m. making toast and hugging her child and whispering, "You can do this," in her ear before the event. I would not be able to give that responsibility to a stranger because those are the golden moments all parents treasure – win or lose.


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