I have Olympics fever. I have it bad. I had the Opening Ceremonies circled on my calendar and counted down for weeks. I held my breath as the torch entered the stadium and lit up a gigantic stage. I wiped away tears as the mighty stars and stripes circled the world standing around them and the men and women who proudly wear my country's colors across their chests flowed into the crowd. It is a magical moment for me. It always has been. I was the child who pranced across my parent's coffee table, my own personal balance beam, in 1984, just like Mary Lou Retton. I have cheered on every Olympic team since. I watch swimming, diving, equestrian, track and field...and always gymnastics. The Olympics give me something I am often lacking. They give me hope. They make me believe in the underdog. They make me believe in hard work. They make me believe in celebrating the human spirit. They make me believe anything is possible...and they remind me of what my little boy is trying to teach me every day.
The Olympics are special for more than just the athletics. The competition is amazing and leaves me awestruck. But it is something more that makes the Olympics such a memorable event. It is why we tune in. It is why we watch events we would never turn on otherwise. It is the spirit. The Olympic spirit. It is what powers the Olympics and it is what makes us believe in teenage girls we have never heard of before and it is what turns multi-milllion dollar basketball superstars into ordinary competitors. It is the spirit. It is the faith. It is the belief that you can work hard, give up everything and see your dream come true. The Olympic spirit is about defining goals for yourself, for your country and for your teammates. The goals and even dreams, are not always golden. They are about reaching your personal best and then trying even harder. I know this, because I see it each and every day in my very special little boy.
My son Brady is a four year old little boy with a very rare chromosome duplication. His body is wobbly, his mind is distracted and communication is a struggle most cannot even imagine. He will most likely never be a U.S. Olympic athlete. But most of our children will not. He does, however, embody the spirit of the Olympics. He has struggled with ever developmental milestone. Each and every type of physical activity has required more work than most adults will put in. But Brady never quits. Sitting up was a goal. Brady reached it. Standing on his own was a goal. He reached it. Walking. Oh walking was really just a dream. With hard work, giving up lots of hours of fun times for challenging therapy sessions and some very patient coaches, Brady was able to see his dream come true. His family saw him wobble down the hallway and take those first precious steps. Watching my son walk at 2 plus years old was like watching him win a gold medal. I truly believe I felt the same way Mrs. Phelps did when her son was swimming to gold, race after race. The tears that filled her eyes were that of a mother who had sacrificed, who had given her whole heart to her child in order for him to realize his goals and who actually saw those dreams become a reality. It happens each day during these two wonderful weeks of Olympics. Parents seeing their child's dreams realized. It happens every day in the world of Special Needs parenting too.
As a parent of a child with special needs, I have learned over the last four years to redefine goals. Changing your goals and even your dreams, doesn't mean you are giving up. It means you have reached the point of acceptance and you are turning all the gifts and goodness you have been given into something achievable and at times, magical. My dreams for my son have changed a little bit over the last four years. Medical diagnosis, expert opinions, special education teachers and therapists, have all made my husband and I take a hard and scary look at Brady's future. It has made us change our definition of "normal." But our son make us never stop believing in dreams. In achieving the impossible. Brady is our own Olympian. He has the spirit of an Olympian in his heart. He smiles when he work on "training"...lucky for Brady, his training incorporates laps around our backyard and climbs up the play-set rock wall. Brady knows the dream is achievable. He reminds me not to give up. His determination may never result in a gold medal draped around his neck, but it will result in steps, jumps, runs and a whole lot of smiles.
As I sit night after night and watch these Olympic games, I continue to be in awe of the greatness that I see. I shed the same tears as those athletes' mothers as I watch their children climb on top of the podium, let that beautiful medal fall against their chest and let the emotions flow as the National Anthem plays. I understand hard wok. I understand determination. I understand the beauty of seeing your child reach their goals and achieve their dreams. Our children's dreams are our dreams. Our country's athletes' dreams are our dreams. The Olympic spirit can come alive in all of us, even a very special little four year old.