“Did Yusra really save people when her boat broke down?” my daughter asked, eyes glued to the screen as we watched a brief glimpse of the Olympic Refugee team. We were cozied up in the family room on a pile of blankets, watching the Olympics at a time when the kids definitely should be in bed. But I am willing to let go of all my rules this month.
This is the first Olympics my kids have seen. This is the first time I felt the Olympics—with its message about the spirit of sports and friendship—is really, really needed. I want my children to remember the 2016 summer games for the rest of their lives.
Why? Because there has been motivation, determination, encouragement, and support at every corner during these past couple of weeks. But mostly because of these four invaluable lessons:
1. Because Rio 2016 showed us that no one ‘type’ of person makes a winner.
The U.S Gymnastics Team blasted the stereotype of what a ‘Gymnastics’ team should look like. Right from an immigrant coach to African American superstars, the team stood for just two things that united a brilliant and diverse team, talent (and nerves of steel.) And when Simone Biles said “I am not the next Usain Bolt. I am not the next Michael Phelps. I am the first Simone Biles” well, my instinct to print it out and put it up on my daughter’s wall ran pretty high.
2. Because I want my son to grow up watching women win.
The Rio Olympics is where women are kicking butt and everyone is noticing. The Olympics is one event where we can watch everyone win, not just men. I should not just tell my girls that they can do anything, I should be showing my boy how they win (answer? The same as everyone—by working hard and never giving up.)
3. Because, as they say, age ain’t nothing but a number.
“Because I can” That’s what Kristen Armstrong, a day shy of 43, said when asked why she was competing at her age in the Olympics. She won the gold in women’s cycling, thus teaching us that age is, literally, just a number. For it is not just important for me to inspire my kids to do better, I want to be inspired myself. So that the next time we drive our bikes together, I want the Rio Olympics to inspire my kids to cheer me on just as much as I cheer them on.
4. Because, sometimes, there are no borders.
There is actually a team filled with refugees. Let that sink in for a bit. It is a team with people who do not belong to one particular country. This blows my mind. Because when there is divisive talk today about patriotism and immigration, this is literally the one event that shows that people triumph borders and politics. Passion and dedication can break down walls.
I want my children to learn from the athletes who lost but returned to try again. I want them to think about the athlete who injured herself but kept at it. I want them to cheer on the athlete who is last, but still running because participation is the first step. I want them to be inspired by team members supporting and helping each other.
I want them to know that it doesn’t matter who you are, what color your skin is or what you wear as long as you work hard and have the fire within.
Because the Olympics literally is the greatest show in the world. And we have been huddled in front of the television, taking it all in. So when my daughter asks about Yusra Mardini, I want to tell her the story of a girl who fought to save people and then competed with the world’s best. I want to show her that there are so many countries out there just like ours, yet different. That there are people out there, trying their best, just like us. That we are one world.
Will my kids understand the political nuances to the Olympics? Likely not. But they will remember the stories that make the Olympics. That, ultimately, is why it has been important for us to watch it together.