Year after year we shoo the kids away from the television and worry about how to connect with them and then we find unity in front of the box, glowing with Olympic common ground, but one expert warns about managing what he calls "Olympic withdrawal."
In an interview this morning, Robert Thompson, the founding director Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, cautioned me that the uptick I am experiencing in family bonding with my husband and sons as we all whoop by the TV can have a wicked let-down when the daily date with excitement is all over.
“The Olympics is really amenable to viewing as a communal event because, if you’re the only one in the bleachers, a game isn’t as much fun to watch,” Professor Thompson explained. “It’s almost like this multi-day holiday effect. Which brings us then to the Olympic withdrawal. It’s like when the circus comes to town – you’re in heaven and then heaven packs up and leaves. Some people actually suffer depression afterwards. Some families may have very little in common and Olympics has potential to bring all those diverse aspects together and when it goes away, then everybody’s back to their own problems, communication devices, and segregated worries.”
We already had a bit of that experience last month as a family of avid Tour de France watchers. When the event wrapped this year, we had that gassed-out, moody swing. We went our separate ways, and all the bickering and shoulder shrugging that is typical in a home with four boys (three of them teens) and parents with busy lives did indeed seem a bit more sharp and edgy.
So Thompson’s words gave me pause to reflect and perhaps plan a bit more seriously how to counteract what is coming when the Olympic flame and TV go dark.
In our home, Olympics has been both a source of unity and education. It gave me a chance to discover one of my sons’ hidden Olympic dream about Brazilian jiu-jitsu for 2016.
Weeks before the Olympics started, the most laid-back and aloof of my boys, Ian, 17, began to actually speak to me about things not involving the words “What’s for lunch?” and “have you seen my Gi?” He’s a Gracie jiu-jitsu blue belt who spends as much time in the dojo as the guy who owns it.
He began talking about judo, which he hadn’t known was an Olympic sport, and asking me to come watch YouTube Olympic videos of past matches with him. Then he ran around the house gathering his brothers and his father to come watch, occasionally pausing a video to commentate about a technique as compared to his beloved Gracie technique.
This felt like it was going to be the moment when the whole, “Let’s all sit together and hang on every Olympic moment” bubble burst. He walked away. A few minutes later he came roaring back whooping and grabbing me by the wrist to come see what he’d found – there’s a petition and movement to get the sport into its home games in Brazil as an exhibition sport.
“Yes! Yes! Mom help me do this,” he said looking intensely into my eyes. Those words every mother of a child with a dream has ever heard, whether it be about a sport, college, or career choice.
It’s the moment when the spark flies from the Olympic torch and we, as parents, choose to let it die or catch it on a candle we keep in the window for our children’s sake.
We’re going for it. Ian and I are taking today away from the TV to see what we can learn online about how it all works and what we, as a family, can do together between now and 2016. Break out the coconut water and let the pursuit of new games and Olympic flames begin.