I've always loved the Olympics. As a child, I remember vying for the best spot in front of our TV to cheer on the American athletes - no matter the sport. And, secretly, I couldn't wait for the produced videos on a proud country or scrappy athlete, usually narrated by Bob Costas, that always brought tears to my eyes - no matter the topic. I loved it all, and I was always sad when the athletes came together for the closing ceremonies and we bid farewell to the Olympics for a few more years.
Little did I know, as a child, that the Olympics can get even better - when you watch them with your own children. It's something I've just started to realize now that my sons are getting older and beginning to understand the significance of the Olympic Games played on a global stage for all the world to see.
I have fond memories of the 2012 Summer Olympics
My family and I caught the end of the 2012 Summer Olympics while on vacation in Paris. I'll never forget walking down a quiet, meandering street in the Marais on our very first day there, and emerging out into the sunlight in the center of Hôtel de Ville. There, in the middle of the square in front of the historic building, people were lounging on bean bags, watching the Olympics live from London on a huge screen. It gave the games a whole new significance to be watching them outdoors in Paris with locals and tourists alike. And, I don't think any of us will ever forget seeing the French handball team take the gold medal in front of a proud, boisterous crowd - in the capital of France.
That night, we cheered for France, for the US, for the Olympics, and for the opportunity to experience it abroad. On our walk back to our apartment, we felt thrilled to have been a part of it all.
So why is it so hard to embrace the 2014 Winter Olympics?
Tonight, at the opening ceremony, athletes from around the world will once again take the global stage for the 2014 Winter Olympics. But, for some reason, I have conflicting emotions about watching the competition that I love so much.
It's no secret that I love exposing my sons to the people, places and cultures of the world, and try to seize upon any opportunity to do so. With more than 6,700 athletes from 85 countries vying for athletic glory in Sochi in front of a TV viewing audience 3 billion people strong, you'd think it would be an easy decision to flip on the TV and dive back into the raw emotions of the games. But, it's not so easy this time.
As NBC reported yesterday, Russia recently passed laws that make it a crime to promote gay "propaganda" and restrict gay adoptions, and human rights organizations have called out a pattern of oppression against Russian gays and lesbians. The story also highlighted comments from the deputy prime minister of Russia who said that gay Olympians and fans have nothing to worry about, but asked them to please not touch kids.
At this same time, I've seen comments from friends who aren't tuning into the 2014 Winter Olympics because of the views and practices followed by the host country. And, I wholeheartedly support their choice to stand by their convictions - something that makes America so great.
I want my sons to learn from my actions, too.
I know that my sons are too young to take away anything from the games other than the thrill of so many elite athletes from so many countries coming together in good, healthy competition. For that I am glad. But, I'm not naive.
I understand that being a parent is also about showing them the good with the bad and sharing a child-appropriate version of reality. It's also about continuing to educate them based on my actions and leading by example. That's why with only a few hours until the opening ceremony, I still don't know what to do.
I want nothing more than to have my sons cheer on the more than 6,700 athletes from 85 nations competing in 15 sports over the course of 89 events - and to feel pride in seeing an American athlete take his or her place on the medal stand. I can only imagine how hard they've worked to be there in Sochi. But, I don't know if I can do it.
At the back of my mind is the type of example I'd be showing my kids by pushing aside the Russian laws and views on gays and lesbians. It seems like just a few weeks ago we were talking about the importance of equality among all people in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the valiant efforts he made to stand up for his convictions for the good of us all. So, how do I go against that teaching and support the 2014 Winter Olympic host country?
But, I also have noted the comments from our president in another NBC News story from today. When asked about selecting openly gay former athletes as official U.S. delegates to the olympics, he said "we wanted to make it very clear that we do not abide by discrimination in anything, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation." And, I've applauded the gay and lesbian support Google has shown for athletes competing in the 2014 Winter Olympics via its latest "Google doodle."
That's why at this time, I'm conflicted about whether or not to watch the games this year.
But, I know that I need to do one thing - to continue the dialogue about hard work, determination and equality with my sons. And, to continue to weigh the ramifications of our decision whether or not to tune into the 2014 Winter Olympics with my husband - my partner in it all.
No matter what we decide and what we ultimately watch on our TV, I know I'll continue to be hopeful. Hopeful that the next Olympic Games will be hosted by a country where all are welcome. Hopeful that the issue of inequality will never need to be raised again. Hopeful that my sons will respect and applaud our decision some day - whatever it may be. And, hopeful that we'll be able to savor the thrill and wonder of the Olympic Games - like we did during the 2012 Summer Olympics.
How do you feel about watching the 2014 Winter Olympics? Do you plan to tune into the games? Have you struggled with your own decision, too? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Want to stay up to date on all the latest from Raising World Citizens? Then be sure to like Raising World Citizens on Facebook and sign up to have new blog posts delivered straight to your email inbox. (My list is completely spam free. You can opt out at any time.)