Why it's Important to Encourage Your Child to Watch the Olympics in PyeongChang 2018Watching live sports is a thrill, and of course no sporting event is quite as thrilling as the Olympic Games.

This year the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang are 17 hours ahead of us here in California. That’s almost a whole day! That’s the same time difference that there will be in 2020 for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Juggling how to watch our favorite events live with that kind of time difference can be a challenge, but my youngest son pointed out why it matters.

My youngest son begs me to watch the Olympics live. Even when events happen late at night or at odd times of the day due to the time difference, he insists that we watch it while it happens. At only nine years old, to me it at first seemed unreasonable to allow him to stay up late at night or wake up early to watch events that he could just as easily watch recorded the next day in a more reasonable time.

When I gave him a firm “no” to his repeated requests recently, he turned his face up to mine, looked deeply into my eyes, and told me:

“Mom you need to understand, I want to connect to the hearts of these great athletes! I feel their excitement and pride right now and I imagine myself proudly representing America at Olympics on 2028!! “

I was completely blown away with his powerful explanation! I gave him permission to watch the opening ceremonies, all the way to the last national team that walked through the stadium, long after his siblings had all fallen asleep on the couch. The same for several of his most treasured events – he got to stay up late to watch the athletes that he most loved and admired do their competitive pieces live when possible. During those opening ceremonies he was actually shaking with excitement from the importance of the moment, and he jumped up high when the American team waved to us from the big TV screen. Seeing it live and knowing that it was actually happening right at that moment was a huge deal for him! He was really part of that Olympic moment. His happiness lifted towards the sky he recognized his favorite athletes like Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin, and Nathan Chen for whom he had already built his appreciation for from the many of stories he’s heard in the Olympic programming..

We don’t just root for the fencers in the Summer Olympics. As fans of the games, we get just as much of a thrill from the Winter Olympics as well! There’s something beautiful and unifying about the spirit of the Olympics, in the summer or in the winter. Though we of course do dearly love fencing, we also revel in the wide variety of sports that happen across the board.

Coming together with the Olympics

During the Olympics, my children and I come together to watch so many incredible examples of heroism, patriotism, passion, and true love of sport. These are lessons that can’t be taught through books or with time on the practice strip alone. So many incredible stories that inspire our family, stories that we talk about over the dinner table and in the car on the way to school. We get to know these people, to root for them and to learn from them: how they overcome incredible difficulties on their way to the Olympics, from unbelievable injuries and missing whole season of training and competing to such traumatic and grieving events as losing a teammate, but yet how determined they are to achieve their goal.

These games are not about winning medals. The amount of hard work, passion, and dedication that each Olympic athlete commits to should be a lesson for all of us. People put aside their differences and come together for something larger than themselves. Think about how the games unite North and South Korea during the 2018 games in PyeongChang – they marched in as one Korea! Last week we saw the story of skiers from “exotic” countries that are far from snowy slopes, who finished last and yet still celebrated their ability to participate in the Olympics and in sport in general and every day brings more such stories. That kind of heart and beauty is what the games really mean, and we were able to show our children those lessons through these incredible athletes.

Things we want to learn

Throughout the games, we find that we learn about culture together as a family. The geography, the costumes, the customs, the languages, and so much more. We get to open up to understand more about every single country! It’s a wonderful, wonderful part of the Olympic Games because it us that we are only one small part of a much bigger world.

We learn about new sports! Each time the Olympics are held, we have the chance to learn about sports that we had no idea about up until now and we see a whole different set of sports that have mixed events. The Olympics is not just one monolithic thing that doesn’t change – the sports evolve, new sports are added, and rules change. These changes happen slowly enough that it’s easy to keep up, but they keep us learning. I love it when my kids come to me with tidbits like how speedskating qualifying points for the Olympics can now come from inline skating competitions, allowing warm weather athletes a better shot at competing. And I find myself more and more learning from my kids about all these things when I am totally clueless about the topic. How cool is that?

Whether you’re watching sports that you’ve loved again and again as a fencer or just as a fan, or if you’re diving in and watching new sports that you’ve never seen before, you’ll find that your life and your family are enriched by the Olympic Games! One of the coolest things about technology today is that you can not only watch the Olympic Games anywhere thanks to streaming media, but also that you can see SO much more on social media. We get the idea that the Olympics are this one time thing that happens every four years, but the reality is that the work to get there happens far beyond just the two weeks of the Games. We love that athletes today share their whole journey through their social media accounts, in part because it can help our kids to see that these “big deal” athletes are real people who really train hard, just like they do.

We cannot tell you how much we enjoy getting our families together to share the Olympic Games. You never know when something amazing, unexpected, and once in a lifetime will happen. For just these several days, let your kids stay up later, feel the vibe, get yourself inspired. It’s not about the medals, but often it is about the life changing nature of sport.

My son’s dreams about the big Olympics since the closing ceremony in Rio have stayed with him, not only the moments of the win but also the moments of patriotism and even of defeat.