My kids Olympic stars Only if they hand out medals for lazing around
20:55 GMT, 8 August 2012
The saying of the week in our household has become: ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.’ It’s now such a Candy mantra that Gracie-in-the-middle, aged eight, says it whenever she makes her bed, voluntarily brushes her hair, or offers to help lay the table for tea.
It’s because I’ve been trying to instil some Olympic ambition in the trio of trouble and their baby sister Mabel.
Also, between you and me, I’ve been not-so-subtly using the viewing timetable for this historic event to make up for the fact that I’ve failed to organise any summer holiday activities for the children while I’m out at work.
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This way they don’t actually have to do anything — they can watch other people do extraordinary things from the sofa and possibly be inspired to follow in their footsteps (and the boy child can also keep a log of meaningless statistics).
But I fear my plan has failed, because I personally can’t watch or discuss any of the Olympics without bursting into tears. When I try to impart the sheer heroism of what we’re witnessing, the dedication, the motivation, the courage, I become a hot mess of weeping womanhood. Obviously, this doesn’t inspire my children, it embarrasses them. They avert their eyes and begin to discuss Moshi Monsters.
The problem is that, even though I’m someone whose interest in sport boils down to two words — David Beckham — I’ve become ridiculously obsessed with the Olympics. I’m particularly touched by the emotional back stories of so many Olympians — the hurdler who won because he promised his dead grandmother he would, the windsurfer who’s barely seen his two young sons while training, the rower who is a serving Army officer, the horse and rider whose telepathic relationship is unbelievable, the 15-year-old American swimmer who unexpectedly won a gold, Usain Bolt . . . oh God, pass me the tissues, I’m off again.
I can’t get on the bus to work without sobbing with pride every time I see a small child wearing a Team GB shirt or a teenager with red, white and blue nail varnish.
Just before the 100 metre final started, my five-year-old told me sternly: ‘You need to calm down’ as I yelled ‘Everyone be quiet, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.’ As we win gold after gold I enthusiastically encourage my youngsters to embrace the family unity of these patriotic and unbelievably emotional games (if anyone mentions Ennis or Wiggo at this point I am going to have to have therapy).
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The children remain unmoved, however.
‘Whose lifetime’ Gracie asks. ‘Yours,’ I reply, explaining that the
Olympics is unlikely to be held in the UK again while they are alive.
‘So you’ll be dead when it comes here
again and so will I, but Mabel may get to watch it when she is 90 What
happens when you die’ she continues.
I try to stop her focusing on the death bit and think more about the achieving bit. My son then asks me if anyone died in the archery and I begin to lose patience as I explain it’s not like the episode of CBeebies Horrible Histories in which the nobility practised archery on their servants, some of whom did die.
‘Oh, I’m not watching that then. I’m going back on the computer,’ he replies.
My fantasy that #London2012 (as the Olympics has become known due to its huge social media following) is the summer when my children find a sport that one of them becomes really good at it is pretty much dead and buried.
When the eldest asks me to pass the remote control, which is just beyond her fingertips, so she can change the channel to watch Deadly Planet instead of the gymnastics, I realise that this lot would only make it to the podium if there were gold medals for lying around.
‘Everyone to the park, we are going to get some fresh air before the men’s diving,’ I say when I get home from the office early one day. As I force them out into the showery afternoon you can probably hear the groaning from the Olympic stadium itself.
When Gracie asks why we are walking up the High Street in the pouring rain I tell her firmly they need to do more activity.
‘I have done loads of activity today, though,’ she complains. Be specific, I tell her. She pauses before replying: ‘I changed the loo roll. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence because I’ve never done it before.’
Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of ELLE magazine.